What a way to usher in your 10th birthday, Facebook!
On January 30, Facebook announced a new standalone iPhone app called Paper. While it may be rudely construed as a news-reading app, it is so much more. It is a complete reimagining of Facebook – which also means that you can use Facebook from within this platform – Friend Requests, Messages and Notifications. Here’s an app that is so un-Facebook that it will persuade those who’ve given up on the social network to actually give it a second chance.
Content. Pure content, cutting through the noise and clutter that is present-day Facebook. Yes, there are a multitude of content applications in the market including Flipboard, Zite and Google Currents. But, Paper feels different. Reminiscent of Flipboard, yet different. Completely eliminating buttons and basing all interactions on swipes, the interface is fresh and intuitive set of scrolling screens. The horizontal scrolling is in contrast to the vertical streams we have gotten so used to.
Paper is the first product to come out of Creative Labs, a department within Facebook for small teams to develop radical (okay, fresh) ideas and apps. The brains behind the app belong to Mike Matas. Matas was part of the team that designed software for the original iPhone. Later, he was responsible for Al Gore’s pioneering interactive eBook Our Choice and recently, he also designed the Nest’s trademark thermostat interface.
Once you launch the app, you are led through a tutorial.
While the default section is your Facebook Feed (you can’t remove it; just shift it to end if you want to get rid of it), there are a couple of options for additional feeds – Headlines, Enterprise, Pop Life, Score, Home, Family Matters and more. Including sections for ‘Cute’ and ‘LOL’.
Once you’ve set up your sections, you can just swipe through them or the stories within each section. The stories themselves resemble Twitter Cards.
What I absolutely love, even more than the content, is the attention to detail. The typography of individual cards duplicates the respective publication’s sensibilities.
The layout for each screen is streamlined and minimalistic, in tune with the aesthetic sensibilities of recent times: Home Screen, Facebook Page and Story Card, respectively.
When browsing a Facebook Page using Paper, you can peruse content from past years with just a swipe. Finding the Facebook Page first could be a minor stumbling block. Here’s how you can do it: swipe down to the Options panel and use the Search box.
While minimal settings are available, they seem enough for daily use. Just swipe down any screen and press ‘Settings’ to access the panel. You could even add a Read Later service. From within the story, you can share it from your own account or save it for perusal at a later time.
When you do want to share your own story, you’re presented with a clean WYSIWYG editor reminiscent of Medium or Svbtle.
The interface might confuse a lot of users and is somewhat whimsical, but the experience is immersive. New content cards fly in. Posts unfold like a newspaper. When you reshare a content piece, your name types itself out on the screen and the card zooms away.
Curiously, the app is available only for iPhones and to compound that, only in the US iTunes Store. While we can’t do much about the lack of support for Android, here’s how to download the app even if you’re not on the US Store. If you’re already in the US, download here.
All told, I think it’s a great app and could become my go-to app for consuming content!