Facebook just launches a new standalone iOS application called Paper. The app will completely change how users view updates on status and pictures and videos uploaded to Facebook by users. It is more than just an accessory to the existing Facebook app. There is a chance that Facebook users may never want to use the original Facebook app again.
Paper re-shapes the standard Facebook news feed into a fully enjoyable tool. Users can mostly scroll through a news feed without ever using a button; they can just move horizontally with the swipe of a finger. Images and videos can appear full-screen with captions overlaid. Users can, as in the standard app, click “like,” “comment,” and “share.” But they will not see any other buttons or standard UI elements. Existing UI elements within the app will disappear, so as not to get in the way of the user’s enjoyment of pictures and video. The design for the new app is very minimalist.
The new app also furnishes users with a new way to post to their Facebook and to Paper itself with a user-friendly editing system that resembles Svbtle’s intuitive and simple blogging platform. The compose screen will show users what their post will look like in the final post, as they write. It looks very much like Flipboard – another popular news feed app.
More than providing a new appearance to Facebook, the company also wants to re-invent its user experience through launching Paper. The user experience of Paper is different from how people are presented with news through current apps. In Twitter or any other modern news-feeding websites or apps, users receive a constant stream of news, flowing onto their screens with automatic updates. However, Paper goes completely in the opposite direction. In the interview with The Verge product designer Mike Matas, he indicated that he wants people to spend more time on the content their friends and family members are posting into Facebook. This appears to be taking a shot at its own Facebook, which is all about getting constant, fast updates on “friends” through vertical feed on the screen. Matas emphasized that the new app is about the content; what is being published within the Facebook ecosystem, and he wanted users to have a different way to experience Facebook. However, it seems counter-intuitive that Mark Zuckerberg and the corporate management allow the development of app that can cannibalize its existing app.
The creator of Paper is Facebook Creative Labs, a unit within the company assigned to “innovate and build new things,” as Matas told to The Verge. This resonates well with Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of bringing a fresh, immersive experience to his creation. Currently, some find Facebook bloated with features that many people don’t use. Back in September 2013, its iOS app was completely re-designed when iOS 7 was released. That move, however, was not as radical as changing the user-experience completely. News feed, the most important feature of the Facebook app, did not change at all. Paper turns news feed upside down. But it appears that it was almost necessary for Matas and his boss Zuckerberg to take a radical step to innovate. Matas told The Verge that if he and his engineers are worried about annoying a billion Facebook users used to current system, they cannot innovate.
In the end, the risk for creating a standalone app is still there. Paper does not have any ads, which generate most of Facebook income. With strong financial numbers released yesterday, however, launching Paper means that the company is at last willing to risk taking away news feed – the most important feature – from its main app, and to reinvent itself to satisfy its existing users and bring more people, if possible, to Facebook sphere.
By Jonathan JY Jung