Finally, the Facebook mobile app we’ve been waiting for.
Yesterday, Facebook released Paper, a new app that reimagines the Facebook experience. Unlike the desktop version or the current subpar mobile app, Paper doesn’t offer a linear timeline experience. Instead, it’s designed more like a magazine, with the focus on visuals and content (not the platform itself).
What we like:
The UI is beautiful.
It’s what an app is supposed to look like. Fluid, tactile, gesture-based.
The focus on content.
As you can see in the screenshot, there’s a huge emphasis on statuses, not on comments or discussion. Engagement will still be key to the experience, but it’s the content that’s clearly king here.
It’s going to be more important than ever to create great content. It’s going to be center stage, and Facebook didn’t build an app to shine a spotlight on garbage.
What we’re wondering about:
How is that content being served up?
In the current (now old?) iteration of the platform, there are two options on how your News Feed is displayed: “Most Recent” or “Top Stories.” “Most Recent” shows updates from your friends and pages you "Like" in chronological order. “Top Stories” shows updates Facebook thinks you’ll be most interested in. There’s no option to choose one of those in Paper; we’re assuming it’s all based on the algorithm. Which brings us to…
How will the algorithm affect brand pages?
Recent changes have made paid advertising a necessity if you want to get your message out. As Facebook relies more and more on the algorithm for displaying content, marketers have less and less control over how their content is seen. The only answer is to produce better content that Facebook will reward.
How effective are the new “Sections”?
Beyond just your own feed, Paper introduces the ability to choose other “Sections,” which are feeds that are based on curated sources in a variety of topics. Think of aggregators like Zite, Flipbook, or even The Huffington Post. The message Facebook is sending here: we want you to get your news from us. But where does that content come from? Who’s curating it? Do we trust Facebook enough for it to become our go-to news source?
Again, the question comes back to the algorithm. EGC’s Managing Partner, Nicole Larrauri, chimed in here: "If news is being served based on what’s getting the most clicks, then news providers will constantly be optimizing to serve you what they think will generate the most clicks, ultimately bringing journalism down its lowest common denominator. This isn’t new nor is it exclusive to Facebook Paper. My hope is that people seek a news diet beyond what Facebook is 'feeding' you every day."
Is this the future of Facebook? Maybe. It’s telling that Paper hasn’t replaced the mobile app (and that it’s only been released for the iPhone; not Android, the iPad, or international users). This seems as though Facebook is testing the waters. If they receive positive feedback, there’s clearly a future. But if it flops, well, maybe it’s back to the drawing board.
Our hunch is that this is where we’ll end up going. Facebook knows younger users are starting to tail off, and while there are still well over a billion monthly users, nobody in the tech world can rest for too long on their success. While the 10-year-old company is much larger now than when it was first starting out in a Harvard dorm room, the motto is still “move fast and break things.” Even if it means reinventing your entire platform.