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Facebook strips back failing Home in desperate rescue attempt

Facebook Home, the social network's much-hyped but little-used uber-skin for Android phones, is getting a haircut in the hopes that people will be more willing to try out a pared-down version.

Facebook introduced Home in April as a pre-loaded feature on the HTC First, as well as making it available for download on HTC's One, One X, and One X+, Google's Nexus 4 and Samsung's Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4, and Galaxy Note 2.

But few people ended up buying the HTC First and it turns out that not too many folks loaded Home on the other Android smartphones for which it was available, either. Shortly after its release, consumer sentiment about Home was notably underwhelming and now Facebook has all but admitted that the software package was a failure.

Facebook has stripped down the full, interface-encompassing Home package to just one element, the Cover Feed utility that provides a mobile-friendly take on the site's News Feed and sits on top of a phone's lock screen.

Speaking with CNET, a Facebook spokesperson did not admit that Home was a dud, but indicated that the company had reason to believe that Cover Feed has a better chance of being adopted as a standalone app.

"Cover Feed has been a popular element of the Home experience, and making it available from the Facebook Android app makes it accessible for more people," the tech site quoted the spokesperson as saying.

The new app, which became available this week, isn't limited to the select phones that can run the full Facebook Home package. Installing Cover Feed over your lock screen is now an option in the standard Facebook mobile app for Android.

It's not clear what the deal breaker was for so many Android phone owners with regards to the full Facebook Home package. Many have pointed to Facebook's customised, much-maligned Android app launcher as the culprit. Chat Heads, a messaging app included in Home, hasn't been panned as widely but clearly not too many people are using it, either.

And this isn't the first time Facebook has tinkered with Home in an attempt to make it more palatable. Last month, the social network rolled out an update for Facebook Home that lets you drag apps into folders for a more organised and personalised Home screen.

Facebook's mobile strategy has taken some interesting twists and turns in recent months. On the one hand, the social networking giant has had a good deal more success in reaching users on their mobile devices than many predicted ahead of Facebook's IPO last May.

But monetisation of all that mobile traffic remains a bone of contention for some investors. And attempts to market a full-blown "Facebook phone," whether through a multi-featured software package like Home or by including a special Facebook button on a handset, have repeatedly fallen flat with consumers.