A little over a week ago, Facebook announced its next major mobile foray: Paper. Sporting a full screen, graphic heavy, and seemingly fluid user interface, Paper is a departure from the traditional Facebook mobile experience. As the name subtly implies, the app will focus heavily on pushing news and media content to users.
With many tech pundits already declaring Paper an eventual replacement for the traditional Facebook experience, InfoSpace plunged into Zuckerberg’s newest mobile production. Below, Anne Marie Suchanek and Billy Ceskavich compare perspectives and debate Paper’s significance.
Anne Marie: Facebook Is Trying Too Hard
I had high hopes for Facebook Paper. I recently wrote about why I want to quit Facebook, but haven’t yet. I was hoping that Facebook’s newest release would gravitate me back to wanting to use Facebook again. However, I was disappointed for a few reasons.
Upon installing the app and setting up my sections, I immediately thought that the app was too similar to the news app, Flipboard. Similar to Paper, Flipboard allows users to curate topics of their choosing in order to create a user’s ideal newspaper.
But, Facebook is a clearly social app, and trying to combine that with news of different complexity to me doesn’t mesh well. I enjoyed the separation of social and news, and was reluctant to integrate social media into that aspect of my phone.
The user interface also challenges the initial user. As opposed to the up and down gestures viewing a story requires, switching from section to section requires users to swipe from left to right. Call me old fashioned, but I can’t get used to left to right scrolling.
Overall, Facebook is trying too hard to reinvent themselves this time around. With constant updates to their site and even with the release of their own operating system, it seems as though Facebook has been clawing their way to popularity. Paper seems like a desperate way for Facebook users to try and use the app in a new way. In my opinion, Facebook has already lost.
Billy: The Next Step in Social Aggregation
I will agree with Anne Marie: Paper is a fledgling app and has many flaws in its interface. But, after living with the app for a week, I would argue Facebook is trying hard in the right areas.
Driven by a new array of influences as a public company, Facebook is evolving–more than a social network, it is now a personalized aggregator of media and content. Notably, Facebook has made significant changes to their recommendations algorithm over the past few months that have been met with praise. Numerous online news outlets have seen readership traffic skyrocket from Facebook referrals. Users agree that Facebook’s recommendations of news and content are more relevant than ever.
Paper does well to capitalize on these improvements. Anne Marie is right when she says Paper is a lot like Flipboard: but here news content is presented in a manner recommended specifically for you.
Moreover, after an initial learning curve, I found the new interface to become intuitive. Paper relies heavily on layers and swiping gestures, which allow users to quickly swipe through media and content. While the app may not be designed perfectly for a strictly social experience, it does well to present users with media content that is easy to devour.
Graphic and content centric, Paper has the clear chance to build upon Facebook’s maturing recommendation features, in turn creating a streamlined and personalized social experience.
What’s next with good intentions?
Facebook Paper is loaded with good intentions, but at times is lacking in execution. And where Billy sees a clear pattern for success, Anne Marie sees many significant flaws. We therefore rate the new app a balanced 6/10, a reflection of its status as a solid start.
Facebook Paper could likely become a dominant part of the Facebook experience. Specifically, if Facebook’s team determines Paper further boosts user adoption and revenue, the Paper model will likely expand.
Yet, if too many users agree with Anne Marie that Paper tries too hard to reinvent the Facebook experience, the app may very well flounder.
For now, despite all the hype, we can still look to Paper as at least an indicator of another step forward in the ever evolving social web.
Have you switched to Paper? Share your thoughts on the new Facebook experience in the comments.