The past few weeks have seen a flurry of interest in alternate launchers for Android phones. Nokia surprised a lot of Android users with the pre-beta release of its Z launcher, and we just saw Yahoo’s Aviate launcher leave beta and become widely available. Sure, custom launchers have long been an option for Android users, but it’s only recently that we’ve seen them mature from more of an enthusiast pursuit to software focused on the casual smartphone user. That trend is due in no small part to Facebook’s efforts last spring with Facebook Home, and the corresponding HTC First handset. While the First fizzled-out pretty quickly, Home on its own had been fighting to stay alive, and we saw an update arrive late last year to freshen up its look. However, it might finally be time to close the book of Facebook’s launcher experiment, with word coming in that the team behind it has essentially been dissolved.
Facebook hasn’t formally canceled Home – it’s still available for installation from the Play Store – but there haven’t been any new updates for the better part of half a year, and a new report from The New York Times cites a pair of sources as indicating that Facebook has disbanded the group of engineers originally tasked to work on Home.
That places hope of future updates at a serious disadvantage; maybe we might see a critical security patch or bugfix at some point, but it sounds like there’s little chance of any functional improvements arriving, with no personnel left to work on Home.
In a way that’s a shame, since Home was packed to the brim with ambition, but even if it’s headed out to pasture, we suppose Facebook can take heart in knowing that it helped open the door for other mainstream launcher alternatives.
Update: Despite the reports from these sources, Facebook has released a statement insisting that a team remains working on the software, and support will continue.