Facebook launched its “news” app, Paper, today but the first thing you’ll notice when you use it is how much more awesome Facebook would be if it was like Paper.
The app lets you read news and see headlines in a highly visual format, with lots of nice photos. It’s a bit like Flipboard, the acclaimed “magazine” app with flipping pages. But that does an injustice to Facebook — Paper is much more cleverly designed than Flipboard.
It’s more versatile, there’s a lot more to do, and it’s more personalised.
And that’s because Paper basically is a redesigned Facebook. Paper is Facebook as if it were a brand new app, designed from scratch by a new tech startup specifically for mobile phones.
This is significant because Facebook, notoriously, is a product of the desktop age. It was designed by Mark Zuckerberg on his desktop/laptop computer at Harvard, three years before smartphones were invented. Facebook was only fully reverse-engineered for mobile in late 2012/early 2013.
And, it kinda shows. The Facebook app is good, but not great. Facebook’s Messenger app (basically it’s just the messages function of Facebook in a standalone app) is miles better. Instagram (another standalone Facebook app for photos) is miles better. They are better because they focus on one thing, and do it simply.
Paper appears to be Facebook’s answer to the question, “If we were to re-create Facebook as a standalone app that delivered a beautiful, simple, highly focused experience, what would it look like?”
Well, it looks like Paper.
Paper combines everything — news headlines, your personal Facebook news feed, messages and status updates — into a single format. The swiping actions you need to learn are initially somewhat confusing. But the way photos are displayed, so that they pan from side to side as you tilt the phone, make them appear much bigger than they are.
It’s a startlingly efficient and elegant use of the medium.
Sure, you can go on assuming that Paper is Facebook’s “news” app. I think it’s a Facebook redesign by the backdoor.