Facebook Is Holding Your Friends Hostage in the Battle for the Smart Home

Facebook Is Holding Your Friends Hostage in the Battle for the Smart Home

Why doesn’t the company make apps for Amazon Echo and Google Home? Because your friends are its only advantage.

The tech giants are fighting for a place in your home, but one of them holds the keys — your friends — and it isn’t sharing.

Amazon and Google have both built “smart displays” designed to show photos or useful information and to respond to search inquiries and commands as soon as you utter the magic words that summon their assistants. These devices are essentially tablets fixed to one place in your kitchen, living room, or bedroom. Google has two devices, under the “Nest Hub” moniker, and Amazon sells three under the “Echo Show” brand.

It would make sense if, in addition to playing music or shutting off the lights, these smart screens would show messages or even answer a video call from the same friends you keep in touch with on other devices — but that’s almost impossible because Facebook won’t play ball. The company also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, which means Amazon and Google devices are strangely devoid of the people in your social media networks.

Facebook is withholding your friends because it has its own device in the race for the smart home, Portal, and that device’s only advantage is that it has exclusive access to your social graph.

With Facebook Portal, you can call friends on Facebook Messenger or send messages via WhatsApp. In the two years since this category emerged, Facebook hasn’t bothered to create apps for any other smart screen.

Both Google and Amazon have tried to compensate for the lack of Facebook’s social networks in their smart home devices by building their own messaging tools. Google has invested millions in a video calling app, Duo, which competes with Messenger and Skype for video calling—but users need to convince the people they want to call to sign up for Duo before they can call them. Amazon has its own similar service, called Drop-In.

Author: Owen Williams