Facebook Home and a mobile first solution for real estate

Let’s just get this out of the way: I don’t think Facebook Home, Facebook’s new mobile interface for Android phones, is going to have any impact on the real estate business. None.

Well, at least not in any literal sense.

Nor, I should disclose, do I have any interest in downloading Home or pre-ordering an HTC First. I’m not a heavy user of Facebook, and find the service borderline creepy and distasteful.

But, admittedly, I am not Facebook’s demographic. I am staring down 40, have two small kids and consider any evening when I can get into bed before 10 o’clock a pretty “epic night” these days.

So I’m definitely not who Zuckerberg and crew had in mind when they built Home.

That said, I do think they’ve built something ambitious and unique.

Ambitious because they envision a world in which every personal interaction we have digitally is piped through Facebook’s platform (shudder) and unique because they had the foresight and courage to re-imagine themselves as more than just a “website”.

What struck me as truly novel was how they stripped Facebook down to its component and core parts and rebuilt it from the ground up for the mobile user. Not every company would be so bold.

Mobile first

Mobile first doesn’t just mean trying to cram everything into a 640 x 1136 pixel display. And to date, that’s mostly what we’ve gotten in real estate.

Even Zillow’s app, which was just re-launched yesterday, is basically its website shrunk down to size.

Rather, mobile first means radically reconsidering how a mobile user interacts with the data underlying your service. It assumes constant connectivity and should begin to recognize context.

Facebook Home does this. Google Now is another good example.

Home brings forward all of the must-see content (in Facebook’s case, the photos and updates) and subsumes all other features and actions, revealing them only when necessary or when the user specifically asks for them. Navigation is done through a series of intuitive gestures. The end result is that it looks, and presumably feels, like you are interacting directly with the content.

The closest equivalent to this that I can think of in real estate is Move’s drawing feature on the Realtor.com app (which Zillow now offers, too).

More recently, companies like Homesnap and Keyzio also have begun to tackle some real estate problems with mobile first thinking.We’ll see more more of this.

Facebook Home points the way.