No, the company hasn’t bought Fifty-Three, creators of the iPad drawing app Paper. This is something completely different. And it’s out today, if you have a US iTunes account, right here.
Facebook has hinted at a less integrated Facebook app for some time now. With so many features, plenty misguided, resulting in a cluttered Facebook app for mobile devices, while the competition brought innovation through single-use apps like Instagram and Snapchat, today’s announcement was inevitable. After creating a single app for Messenger, Facebook is at it again, today announcing Paper.
Despite original reports detailing a news reading app, Facebook Paper is a new attempt to become the news app for your friends. Again. Facebook Paper isn’t just a Flipboard clone. Instead, it’s a complete remaining of the Facebook News Feed.
Despite feature clutter, the new app still has the same Page-Like spam you’ve come to expect from Facebook. While dancing through each status update, you’ll be faced with old memes, sentimental pictures, and lots of auto-playing Vines. And as well as this, Paper still just acts as a traditional news-reader app, with users able to select from topics, while Facebook curators choose items to appear in each topic section. It reminds me of the new Digg, but with more ways to filter different topics, rather than Digg’s firehose.
There isn’t an offline mode, with stories opening in a web browser window, but this is still 1.0. If changes are needed, they will likely arrive down the track. And in a much quicker timeframe when compared to the chunky Facebook app we see today. However spam still dominates my News Feed, with every 1 post from my friend usually bringing 9 terrible ‘Your friend liked this’ posts.
Similar to Facebook Home, the news feed is now a full-screen horizontal collection of stories. With a similar aesthetic to apps like Flipboard, the app is now much more clean, as well as focused. Which is the intention for their new à la carte strategy.
Posting is also improved, with a new, clean, WYSIWYG text editor, giving preference to your text rather than the UI. If you’ve ever used Medium, this will be familiar to you.
However, the app isn’t exactly a replacement to the Facebook app. Or not yet, at least. Talking to The Verge, product designer Mike Matas and product manager Michael Reckhow say that they “felt you shouldn’t have to choose between one or the other.” The new card interface is also UI-free, just like the new post-editor, with gestures and full-screen images taking hold of a users screen, rather than the Facebook logo or menus. And that’s the hope. That people will finally slow down to see new posts from friends, rather than scrolling through the firehose of contemporary Facebook and Twitter feeds.
With 9 months of work going into the project, from the new Facebook Creative Labs team, it’s an ambitious, yet risky proposition from the company. With users usually resistant to small UI-changes, the new suite of apps will make it more difficult for the company to introduce new products, as well as difficult for conservative users to swallow. But it’ll also allow Facebook to take more risks, trying new things. To act like a startup, like Snapchat or Instagram, once again. And this completely replaces the Facebook app for iOS, showing that it isn’t a more basic version of Facebook, but rather the redesign which users would never allow. There are a few missing features, but messaging, notifications, your user profile, and more are just a gesture away.
As Zuckerberg has always said, Facebook will still act as a utility, the backbone to each app, but the experiences can now speak for themselves. Even Reckhow admitted that “you can’t be innovative if you’re encumbered by worrying if you’re going to disrupt what hundreds of millions or a billion people are doing.”
It’s a bold new step for Facebook, but will hopefully remove the stigma of Facebook being a one-hit wonder, like MySpace, MSN Messenger, and so many other dead social services. Or as Reckhow says, it’ll hopefully allow the company to “innovate and build new things.”
The app is out now on the US iOS App Store. I’ve been able to download and use the app through a US iTunes account, which is easy to make. Just go to the US iTunes Store on your computer, try and download Facebook Paper and then make a new account, choosing ‘None’ as your default payment method. No Android or Windows Phone app has been announced yet, with Facebook testing the waters initially. We have no idea when an official Australian launch will come, but the above bypass method is fairly easy.
Stay tuned to TechGeek for info as it becomes available.