Facebook channels Twitter, Flipboard and Medium for pretty new Paper app

30 Jan 2014

Years in the making, Facebook Paper will launch on iOS in the US on 3 February, introducing a new public face for the social network, focused on delivering high-quality content and encouraging users to create their own.

Facebook’s new mobile app is at once distinct and familiar. The content focuses on updates that are publicly shared across Facebook’s vast network of users – much like Twitter. There are categories listing themes and interests users can dip in and out of and use to customise their experience, and they can look deeper into content from other sites by ‘flipping’ upwards – like Fllpboard. Users are also encouraged to create their own public content with a focus on a clean, minimalist and beautiful appearance – oh, like Twitter co-founders Evan Williams’ and Biz Stone’s Medium publishing platform.

The most unique aspect of Facebook Paper is the app’s navigation, which allows a lot of freedom and interaction beyond the usual tap and swipe gestures. Users can tilt the screen for a better look at high-res images too big for smartphone displays and other images in the feed can be manipulated for a closer look.

Paper pulls in the good old Facebook News Feed, but presents it in a much more attractive layout. Posts from those deemed ‘trusted publishers’ by Facebook will appear with magazine-style ‘covers’ to be opened up for reading in full and full-screen videos will automatically play when you encounter them – a feature deemed a plus by Paper’s marketers but could well be an annoyance for the user.

When it comes to posting your own content to Facebook Paper, the app allows users a live preview of how it will appear in order to ensure the continued creation of good-looking content.

Facebook Paper app

It looks good on Paper

While there’s no doubt that this interface looks fantastic on paper (pun intended), in practice the app will need to live up the performance advertised – something years of using Facebook’s current clumsy mobile app tells me to be skeptical about.

As well as promising seamless browsing performance, Facebook Paper also commits to a distraction-free experience, which begs the question: where’s the advertising going to go? No ads are shown in the video promoting the app but, surely, the ‘mobile-first’ business making 53pc of its revenue from mobile advertising will be shoe-horning them in there and, if so, how will this affect the beauty of the app?

Perhaps these queries and concerns will be answered when Facebook Paper is released in the US on 3 February, for iOS users only at first. Either way, Facebook Paper looks to be a more attractive public face for a social network trying to coax users out of their private shells by providing a platform that will make their everyday posts look good.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.