Facebook's New Face: Open

Lately I've become less and less interested in Facebook. Many of the friends I truly care about and follow have moved to posting on Instagram and Twitter. Meanwhile, Facebook has become a landfill where posts, photos, cheesy jokes and inspiring quotes written on sunsets from Pinterest are all thrown into my News Feed. 

That being said, the past two weeks have been huge for Facebook, and has actually piqued my interest. I still use Facebook because there are some friends and family that  only use it and no other social media, but with the recent Facebook phone, updated app for iPhone and renewed care in their design, I have to give it a second look.

The one feature that is drawing me back, despite its terrible name, is Chat Heads.

Among the many reasons I stay with the iPhone over moving to Android or Windows phone is iMessage. Since all my family and most of my friends have iPhones, iMessage works seamlessly for me. I can message from my iPhone, iPad or Mac (the most useful). 

On the flip side, I see my entrenchment into Apple's ecosystem, and my iMessages are locked to my Apple devices. If I don't have an Apple device with me, there's no way to iMessage. The same is true with Android, Windows Phone or Blackberry; your texts are locked to the phone. 

Someone suggested using Google Voice as my main number, which allows for texting from the browser, iPhone or Android. But if you've ever used it, you know it's clunky, doesn't work well, and I'd have to give everyone my new number. Or worse, port my existing number and entrust it to Google. No thanks.

So Facebook comes along and introduces it's new messaging format, Chat Heads. Watching the announcement keynote I wasn't immediately impressed. Then as Chat Heads became available on the iPhone with yesterday's update to the Facebook app, I saw its attractiveness.

Facebook, the social media company with no ties to any smartphone OS or carrier, innovated and created a new way to message people that works well, and of all things, is completely open. You can Facebook message from literally any device, be it an iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Mac, PC, Chrome OS or pretty much anything with a web browser.

Not only is it available on every platform you could ask for, it works pretty well, and the new Chat Heads design is actually good. It's hard for me to open up and admit Facebook did something innovative here, but it's true.

Unfortunately on the iPhone, Chat Heads only works when you're in the Facebook app. This is, of course, because of Apple's "closed" system and sandboxed apps. That being said, the HTC First (Facebook phone) becomes very interesting. The First combines your Facebook messaging and texts into one system and allows you to utilize Chat Heads seamlessly with both. 

I won't be switching to a Facebook phone anytime soon, nor will I try to convert all my friends to using Facebook messenger over iMessage. But if Facebook starts to innovate faster than the big players (i.e. Apple, Google, Microsoft), the future of mobile will be very interesting.

Stephen Robles

Story Group, Lakeland, FL

Director of Creative Arts & Technology @WeAreCrossing | Snapchat + Instagram: stephenrobles