Facebook announced yesterday a new standalone app: Paper. I’ll admit that I was skeptical at first: another reading app? what can Paper provide that Flipboard or Pulse don’t already? But then I looked at all the possibilities that Paper actually has and, well, now I think that Facebook could be on the verge of cannibalizing its main app.
Smartphone users have made clear that we love single use apps. We want diversity and simplicity. We want to do a lot of different things with our smartphones and we don’t mind doing them through different apps (actually, that’s exactly what we want!). Instagram for pictures and videos, Vine for videos, Twitter for status updates and media discussions, Snapchat for timed messages, WhatsApp for instant messages, Flipboard for reading news, Facebook for… what do we use Facebook for?
The answer is “for everything” or “for nothing” depending on your age. Facebook has lost users who want an easier digital life (such as teenagers), and that’s something the company is trying to solve. It has evolved a lot since it opened to everyone in 2006. Almost since the very beginning, it was a place where one could share personal information, status updates, links, notes, groups, events, messages, photos, videos… understandably, keeping a simple design was never an easy task.
This is how the iOS Facebook app looks today:
Lots of features available under one single app. It lets you do practically everything you can do on the website. One challenge is how to do many things in one place, but a much greater challenge is how to do one thing in the most delightful and fun way: Facebook’s Messenger app for iOS is way better at sending messages and stickers than the Facebook app. Instagram is also way better at sharing a fun picture. Do you see the pattern?
A beautifully designed app that does one thing perfectly is much more attractive than an app that does a lot of things just right. And when it comes to sharing stories, Paper is the answer. Facebook calls it “beautiful storytelling”: full-bleed images that move as you tilt your phone, web links that unfold like a newspaper, interesting topics presented like in a magazine… it’s all about natural movements and beauty.
Now, what do you use the Facebook app for? Sure, from time to time, you might have created a quick event or checked in a group… but what’s the most common task? For some it’s sharing (a thought, a picture, an interesting article) and for some others it’s reading (friends updates, news). Paper seems to do all that in an impressively enjoyable way.
Have you noticed the iconic buttons on the top right of the image above? It looks like we’ll be able to manage friend requests, messages and notifications too. Have you seen the Facebook name on the left corner? How many times do you think the name Paper will appear in the app? Doesn’t it all look like a revamped version of the Facebook app? Perhaps, Paper is part of a new monetization strategy: replicate key Facebook features in two apps, get double the space for ads. Not bad.
Paper may not be able to completely kill the Facebook app, but once it’s released I bet that it will kill many other reading apps. In time, we’ll see an increasing number of users browsing their News Feed using Paper instead of the Facebook app. Of course, first on iOS, and if it is as good as it seems, it won’t take too long to see it on other platforms.
Paper will be released early on Monday, like the good old newspaper that used to be delivered to your parent’s front door.
Images via Facebook