Facebook Introduces Paper, a New App That Enhances and Beautifies Your Feed

January 30, 2014

If your dream is a Facebook feed free from distractions, you might be in luck.

On Thursday, Facebook introduced Paper, a new standalone app for iPhone that brings together your News Feed, news articles, videos and more into a single well-designed, distraction-free location. Though the app won’t be available until Feb. 3 — and then only for iPhone at first — let’s take a moment to drink in what looks to be a really stunning product from the social network’s new Creative Labs wing.

The tendency for the mobile versions of popular sites has always been to offer a stripped-down experience to better match small-screen real estate. It’s a strategy that makes sense for a site like Facebook, where the slightest tweak to the design nearly always results in a deluge of rants. 

Paper takes a wholly different approach to what is essentially the same source material, offering up full-page themed content to keep you focused (and in the Facebook ecosystem, naturally).

The app starts at a familiar spot: your News Feed. It pulls in photos, videos and long-form posts. The app devotes the full screen space to that content, offering up some dynamic and intuitive interactions, so you can flip through stories like pages in a magazine (similar to the popular Flipboard app) or tilt the phone to pan around a larger photo, Ken Burns style.

You will also be able to update your status with a text or photo update straight from the Paper app.

Paper does differ from your News Feed in one key: There will be human editors choosing noteworthy news articles from around the web to include in your feed. 

From there, you build the content out, choosing from a dozen-plus different topics in categories like food, sports, science and design, with Facebook pulling content from “emerging voices and well-known publications.” And that, really, is where the whole Flipboard comparison holds water here. What Facebook is building is a way of pulling in additional content from third parties, without opening things to external links, so as to keep you on — well, Facebook.

From the looks of it, it’s a strategy that might work for the social network, which has been searching for a way to redefine itself in the wake of the popularity of apps like Twitter and Snapchat. Of course, I’m holding off final judgment until I’ve had a chance to actually play with a final version of the app. In the meantime, some pretty pictures will have to do.

Paper for Facebook will be out for iPhones only on Feb. 3. You can read more about it, straight from Facebook, here.

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