The rumors suggested it would be a phone, and others thought it would be a variant of Android, a fork to stick it to Google if you will. Turns out, and in hindsight the name makes it painfully obvious, Facebook released a brand new home screen for Android phones. It’s not an operating system, and it’s not a unique application; it’s somewhere between those two points.

Facebook Home integrates deeply into your Android phone, and provides a new app launcher and home screen that shows off all your Facebook content directly on a phone’s home screen. Long story short, Facebook’s looking to replace Google Apps with its own offerings. Photos, status updates, applications, and even ads will find their way into Facebook Home.

So, what do we know about Facebook Home at this point? The platform will include four main technologies .

Here’s what they are:

  1. Facebook Home: the new lock screen and home screen of your Android phone. It’s not an operating system, but it kind of is in reality. It’s what you’re looking at and interacting with on your Android phone.
  2. Coverfeed: This is where all the updates and news feed information will be published on your phone. It’s right on your home screen. Home screens just got way more interactive. The question here is whether or not Coverfeed is something you want to look at all the time. I’m pretty sure 95% of the information coming through my newsfeed on Facebook is garbage at this point.
  3. Chat Heads: Facebooks new Home messaging system. Communications will pop up no matter what you’re doing on your phone. It’s pretty neat in theory.
  4. App Launcher: Pretty much your normal home screen, but for Facebook apps.

Facebook Home will only be available for select Android devices, and will definitely not be available for iOS, because, well, you know, openness.

Our first take after reading a bunch about the new Facebook offering is that there are a lot of refreshing things happening in Home. The multitasking handling of messaging from anywhere within Home is something that stands out immediately. There’s nothing worse in iOS than having to jump from application to application to send a quick message. That said, there’s also a lot to be said about the interruptions and clutter that a message anywhere paradigm introduces to the mobile experience. The only way we’ll be able to call it a success one way or the other is to get our hands on Facebook Home and try it ourselves.

We also have to wonder: what’s Google thinking about this? How annoyed are they that they pushed Android as an open mobile operating system in the early days? Is it only a matter of time until Google forks Android and starts working on a closed alternative to regain some control over the platform? Those are the questions that we need answers to and we’ll probably start to get some ideas at Google I/O.

In the mean time our gut tells us that things are about to get less open at Google when it comes to Android.  It’s one thing to be open, and it’s another to let a company like Facebook swoop in, take over your operating system, and then start serving up advertisements to your installation base. If there’s one thing Google takes seriously, it’s its advertising business, and Facebook just threatened that on all Android phones. Google’s not going to let that one slide. They literally can’t afford to at this point.