Facebook has a long-stated desire to be the first and only place you go on the Web to get news. Recently though, Facebook had been failing in this mission as its News Feed became cluttered with advertisements and sponsored stories, babies, wedding announcements and "viral" news by the likes of Upworthy. Lost in the clutter was news you might actually want to read.
Facebook aims to solve that. Today it announced an application called Paper that is designed to be a great way to read news on your smartphone. Paper is designed to let you customize what you read and allows you to create sections within the app suited to your interests. The first section will be items aggregated from your News Feed while subsequent sections are populated by what you like to read.
The design of Paper is reminiscent of a cross-breed between the Flipboard news reading app and Facebook's troubled Android launcher, Facebook Home. The problem with Facebook Home was not that it wasn't pretty, it was that nobody really wanted to use it. This makes for a well-designed news reading app that is fully touch responsive and allows for full screen modes, large cover titles for articles and the ability to tilt your phone to see panoramic photos.
Paper will be available for the iPhone on February 3rd.
Essentially, Paper is what Facebook Home probably should have been. Facebook announced Home in April 2012 and partnered with HTC to make a smartphone where Home was the primary interface with the HTC First. The problem with Home was that it was a confusing and difficult-to-use launcher that made your phone into one massive Facebook feed, all the time. Sure, people like to use Facebook from their phones, but Facebook all day, every day may have been a bit ambitious. Facebook Home was layered on top of the stock Android user interface and toggling between the two was not easy.
Paper is not a launcher. It is an app, on iOS but not yet Android. It is attractive and makes Facebook more pleasant to read and to share. Whether it will be a hit is anyone's guess. The app economy has no shortage of news apps available, from Flipboard to Zite, News360, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and so forth. Facebook may find it difficult to dislodge the incumbents in the news app space.
Paper is the first app from Facebook's Creative Labs, an app studio within Facebook creating new ways for people to connect and share content.