Just a week after international media outlets were claiming Facebook could drop users by 80 percent in the next three years, the ten-year-old social network launches Paper, an iPhone mobile reader that provides a creative new way for reading news and enjoying pictures and stories on mobile phones
The largest and most successful of the world’s social networks, Facebook has so far failed with its attempt to master mobile applications, but this is seen as a breakthrough. Two years ago, founder Mark Zuckerberg announced at an “all-hands” staff meeting that the company was going to be “mobile first.”
Today the hybrid Paper was unveiled, and within the week (by Feb. 3) it will be available to the public.
Initial reports say that it will offer a personal approach to news and will up the game of existing apps like Flipboard and Feedly. While it predictably features the entrenched Facebook News Feed, a leading feature is that users can “build” the app to make it their own. It does not follow the familiar Facebook timeline, and it can be customized to fit favorite interests, including sports, food, science, photography and design.
Word is that the new app that was created by Facebook’s “new” division, Creative Labs. These are the people in the Facebook business that have been tasked with building mobile apps that are better than the rest, and achieving Zuckerberg’s stated vision as of 2012 – “mobile first.” These are the developers and engineers who have been dedicated, for the past two years, to finding new ways of telling stories and sharing news. So when the news was announced today that Facebook launched the new mobile reader, Paper, the public was given its first look at this division’s first product. In a nutshell, their PR sell is for news and stories that come in different “shapes and sizes” and can be told in any which way.
So far the chatter on the Internet is positive and excited, if not ecstatic, as claimed by some. Cynics continue to point out that Facebook has battled to move from a primarily Internet-based business to one that uses mobile readers and cell phones. In its early days, Facebook was a hub full of links that was best viewed on a well-sized computer screen. Its design made it tricky to migrate seamlessly from computer to cell phone, or even to tablets and iPads. What can be seen on a decent sized computer screen still cannot be portrayed in the same way via a mobile phone.
The way Facebook sees it with Paper, is that users can now make use of beautiful, very “detailed covers” that make it simple to identify articles they want to track down and read or videos they want to watch. Like any other tablet-type reader, the new Facebook app allows users to see exactly what they want to see full screen, which makes it a lot easier to read.
With the recent predictions of the demise of Facebook came confirmation that the company is worth an amazing $139 billion and that it has around one billion users scattered throughout the world. Extracted from a study done by academics from Princeton University, the theory was that those who had joined social networks would lose interest, rather than “stay indefinitely,” soon that $139 billion would diminish.
During Facebook’s recent “earnings call,” Zuckerberg made further references to his intentions to “hit mobile devices” as part of his business growth. This was linked to the company’s Graph Search for mobile. The only reason the rollout on this one has been a bit slow is because there have been so many (more than a trillion) connections and status updates to incorporate.
For now the app to look out for is Paper, the mobile reader for news and stories and much, much more. Then users can look out for whatever else Facebook launches later in the year.
By Penny Swift