Facebook Isn't Giving Up on 'Home' Despite Slow Sales

COO Sheryl Sandberg Cites 'Competitive Advantage' In Mobile

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COO Sheryl Sandberg said Facebook will continue to phone "Home."

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

She acknowledged the mobile app hasn't been the success that Facebook hoped after it was unveiled with much fanfare in April, but vowed to continue to improve it.

"Do you consider it a success?" asked Kara Swisher at All Things D's tech conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. "We consider it very early," Ms. Sandberg replied.

The app takes over the home screen of Android phones, replacing a grid of other apps with Facebook updates and a communication tool called "Chat Heads." Less than a month after rolling out HTC One phones with the app pre-installed, backed by massive promotion inside AT&T Wireless stores,, AT&T dropped the phone's price from $99 to $0.99.

Ms. Sandberg said the feedback on the app has been "bi-modal," with reviewers giving five stars or one star in Google Play, perhaps reflecting the divide between heavy and casual Facebook users. That said, she argued that the reorganization of the phone experience from apps to people is "inevitable." "We believe the phone will get reorganized around people and we think 'Home' is the first iteration of that," she said.

While the "Home" flopped at retail, Ms. Sandberg said Facebook is hard at work to improve it. "We are committed to monthly roll-outs of this." she said. "I don't know how long it will take, but we really think we are on the right path."

Facebook's commitment to "Home" underscores the importance of mobile advertising to the company, which grew from essentially zero when Facebook went public a year ago to 30% of revenue today. Ms. Sandberg said Facebook will continue to develop apps for Android and iOS ecosystems, but it will not become a hardware maker itself.

On the PC, Ms. Sandberg said that Facebook could indeed introduce a third-party ad network that would serve ads across the web, not just on its own site. "I think an ad network is a good idea for Facebook and a lot of people have asked us for it," she said. But until now, that hasn't been a priority.

She also addressed anecdotal concerns that usage of Facebook might be dropping off among younger demographics, saying that there's no such drop reflected in Facebook data in any demographic or region. 

"It is the case that teenagers are using more social services than they did before; at the same time they continue to be active and engaged Facebook users," she said. "We don't think its a zero-sum game."

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