Facebook has finally unveiled Paper, but it’s more that just a news reader, it’s a whole new Facebook experience. The final product looks to be a rival to Flipboard, instead of addressing some of the remaining search gaps Facebook has on its social network.
Paper is a standalone mobile app that lets you discover what your friends and the whole world finds interesting. You can see posts from your Facebook friends, public posts from others not in your network, and even find interesting content based on categories.
Content in Paper may be user-generated or from publications such as digital magazines and newspapers.
Before Paper, it wasn’t quite so easy to find content on Facebook. All you could see were the items shared by friends and those you follow. Paper makes it easier to explore the web and share content with others.
“As you start changing the way you’re displaying this content, we hope that it will change the way people think about posting content,” Mike Matas, Paper’s product design lead, said. “Because the two are obviously really connected.”
Paper will be available for download starting February 3 in the US, no news yet as to when the rest of the world can expect it to be available in their country. Also, Paper will launch on Apple’s App Store and again, no news yet whether Android or other mobile platforms will be graced with its presence.
So how does Paper work?
The simple answer is, it’s like flipping paper. It makes use of swiping and tapping gestures, much like any similar mobile app available on the market today.
Each story appears full screen so you can see, watch or read it distraction free. If you’re looking at a photo, instead of using your finger to explore other areas of the photo, you just need to tilt your iPhone to expose the hidden areas. If you’re not so much into writing but enjoy telling stories through photos, Paper will do your work justice. Open a story and just scroll up or down to see the photos. Videos also take up the whole screen, no need to turn your device sideways to appreciate the whole video.
Stories literally unfold right before your eyes. When someone shares a story from a news source, instead of tapping on a link and opening up a new page, all you have to do is push the image of the story up to unfold it and read the article, when you’re done reading, just scroll back up to the photo and pull it down to fold the story.
Like any news reader or content aggregator app, you can discover content based on categories, or in Paper’s case, Sections. You can find different themes, interests, news sources and use them to customize your Paper. To do this, on Paper’s home page, pull down on the top part of the screen to customize the app. Look for “Edit Sections,” tap it to see what categories you can choose from. Pull up categories of interest to the areas provided at the top, then browse the sections you’ve selected to discover more content. Each section contains photos, videos, articles, essays and other insights.
Paper is not only for discovering content but also for sharing. The great thing about sharing your stories using Paper is that you see how others will see you stories, so if you’re not happy with how your story looks, you can just delete or edit it. Share as many stories as you want with your friends or the rest of the world.
Content is not a problem
With some content aggregators, the main problem is the content itself. Users often abandon these aggregators because they cannot find what they are looking for or unsatisfied with the few content available. That hopefully won’t be the case with Facebook, which already has millions of users across the globe.
“We get to start with an app that’s already vibrant with content,” said Paper product manager Michael Reckhow. “You see these other apps that launch as new content networks. And you go in and there’s no content. We’re going to be able to start with a huge head start.”
Facebook released its report for the fourth quarter of 2013 as well as its full year review and it boasted strong revenues as well as active users. Though some believe that use of the service will soon decline, the report showed that users are still interested in the service, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg optimistic about the next decade. If Paper is as engaging and enticing as the demo makes it appear, this could lead to more mobile Facebook users and more user-generated content for our future.