Much has been written about Facebook Home’s failures, but the whole saga points out an important aspect of what Apple does differently than most competitors.
The simple definition of dogfooding is this:
Eating your own dog food, also called dogfooding, is a slang term used to reference a scenario in which a company (usually, a computer software company) uses its own product to demonstrate the quality and capabilities of the product.
Simply put, a company that uses what it makes usually makes better products, though it helps to be brutally honest about how a product works.
Does anyone honest believe that Apple employees do not use a Mac, iPhone, or iPad? Of course not. Even better than just using a particular product is the passion that goes into making a product that the designers, developers, and engineers actually want to use.
Those Apple employees engaged in the design, development, and building of Mac, iPhone, iPad or OS X or iOS, or any of the company’s great applications already know the value of their passion to create what they themselves want to use.
Going back to early versions of OS X for the Mac, we can see the excitement generated by a product that drove customers to stand in line at Apple stores for the latest version. That same zeal has grown as Apple’s product line has grown. New iPhones are met with lines of eager customers at every launch.
So, dogfooding isn’t just an issue of using what you make. Microsoft’s employees certainly use Windows, but what prevents Windows users from having the same passion about what’s running on their PCs?
Dogfooding implies more, and with Apple it contains an element of passion about what a product does, how it’s used, and the delight a user takes in a product that’s been carefully designed and crafted to create an emotional bond.
Does Windows have an emotional bond with users? Yes, but not for the same reasons. Those emotions are mostly negative, perhaps fearful, and often frustrating.
It is said that Facebook’s Home development team mostly used iPhones, although Home was launched on an Android OS smartphone made by HTC (and the Home experience was available for other smartphones). I don’t think that’s why Facebook Home failed. Home’s failure is a direct result of Facebook’s executives to not recognize what users want, and instead force fed users what they did not want– an all encompassing Facebook experience which overshadowed everything else on a smartphone.
Can those at Facebook involved in creating Home actually say they prefer to use Home, or prefer to be able to customize their smartphone however they wish. If it’s the former, I’ll be surprised. If it’s the latter, it’s also a good example of how brutally honest dogfooding results in true innovation, and a bond between product and customer.