Facebook tried (and failed) its first social phone alone

Nov 22, 2011
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HTC's Facebook phone collaboration, reported as "Buffy" yesterday, marks the resumption of an aborted attempt by the social network to create its own smartphone, "Slayer", from scratch, it's claimed. "Buffy" was preceded by a device project codenamed "Social Layer" - subsequently abbreviated - with a hand-picked group working on hardware, software and even carrier deals, according to AllThingsD's various sources. The project, operating in secrecy in a separate building, stumbled when Facebook's ambition exceeded its expertise and budget.

Designing a phone from the ground up is an expensive prospect, Facebook's team realized, with that and the politics around the project eventually seeing the team lose motivation and, in several cases, leave the company altogether.

Before it was scuppered, "Slayer" supposedly had some of the brightest minds in Facebook - and from elsewhere - working on it. The team is said to have included Firefox founder and Facebook iPhone app creator Joe Hewitt, along with Google Chrome OS creator Matt Papakipos, and been headed by Chamath Palihapitiya. Facebook's strategy to cherry-pick participants of the clandestine project reportedly failed to go down well with the rest of the company's workforce, with growing resentment widespread.

Attention then turned to building on top of Android, though eventually the "Slayer" project - which by then had been renamed to "Buffy" after the first name was deemed too aggressive - stalled, only to be picked up again by CTO Bret Taylor. The position now is that HTC is handling hardware, it's said, while Facebook builds an HTML5-centric platform on top of Android.


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