Facebook's new app Paper hit the App Store this Monday, and tech bloggers who rushed to get the first taste have thus far enjoyed what they're seeing. Paper is "the portable Facebook app I've always wanted," The Verge's Ellis Hamburger writes. "[It’s] probably the best Facebook has ever looked," Wired's Kyle VanHemert explains.
Paper has some basic differences to the regular, heavily-used Facebook mobile app: it looks cleaner, it scrolls horizontally rather than vertically, and most importantly, it includes stories Facebook curators believe to be important, and not just what your friends are sharing. Paper includes friend's stories — it refers to all posts as "stories," by the way — but also loops in curated feeds ranging from news "Headlines" to "LOL" to "Family Matters." The content of each section is chosen by a mix of Facebook's internal curators and highly-shared posts across all users.
That's just the tip of the iceberg, though. Here are all the big things reviewers are noticing about the new app's design, its functionality, and What It Means future for the company.
No Brands! (Yet)
The new Paper app cuts out all ads, and even brand pages are having trouble pushing their posts into the app feed. "Facebook, of course, won't deny that Paper may someday have ads, but for now I'm thankful," The Verge writes. Of course, that same news is bad for brands and companies, writes Christopher Penn, a vice president of marketing technology at Shift Communication. "So far, there isn’t a single brand page story even from pages I’ve liked, even from my own Page, with the exception of the curated top tier media sources and stories that my personal friends have reshared," Penn writes. "Brands appear to not be invited to the party."
Facebook's Choices of Media Outlets
What Wired calls the "most radical aspect" of Paper is the section of posts from non-friends and "Headlines," which are curated by a combination of algorithms and hand-picked Facebook editors. Naturally, media outlets are looking to see which publications are being favored, and, of course, how to turn that into more traffic.
Early reviews suggest that Facebook has an over-reliance on a small cadre of big name media brands, rather than individual shareable stories, according to The Verge. Time, CNN, and The New York Times stood out in particular, as well as Huffington Post, National Geographic, and The Atlantic. "I did find myself flipping through story after story from the same publications over and over," The Verge writes. Shift Communication noticed the same limited concentration of "top tier media." That individual stories from lesser-known sites aren't getting attention yet is one weakness of Paper.
Paper Is the Death of Facebook's Regular App
Some reviewers have found Paper to be an all-around better, cleaned-up version of the Facebook app, and so are sounding the death call for the original app. Heck, Facebook developers themselves admitted to TechCrunch they no longer use the regular app:
When I asked the team leaders behind Paper if they still used the old one, product manager Michael Reckhow diplomatically responded “mmhmm, yeah”, but designer Mike Matas just smiled coyly. I pounced, repeating my question just to him. “Once in a while”. He’d spilled the beans. Paper could be a Facebook killer.
“Mostly I use this [Paper]” Matas continued. “There’s some features that it doesn’t have like if uhh….Events is a good example, like if I need to go find an event.” I pressed, “But otherwise you’re finding this does enough?” “For my usage, yeah”, Matas replied.
Even Zuckerberg is on board the Paper train: "Reckhow tells me, “He loves it. He uses it, and he’s just excited to launch like we are," TechCrunch writes.
So why would Facebook cause its own app's death? Penn over at Shift Communications has an idea: "Facebook is aiming for planned obsolescence, hoping to make the next 'Facebook killer' a Facebook app." With Paper, Facebook can beat itself and still keep other competitors away.
Paper Is Just Another Version of Facebook Mobile
Not everyone thinks Paper is going to push out the regular mobile app. "Paper isn’t a replacement for the official Facebook app so much as an alternative to it," Wired writes. In recent weeks, Facebook has introduced trending news terms and more rapidly updating news feeds. This is a change from that. "Where Facebook has gotten faster, newsier, trendier, Paper takes it slower," The Atlantic's Robinson Meyer argues. Will Oremus at Slate said similar things, that Paper is another version, but not a replacement for, the Facebook app. "Paper, meanwhile, may be better for the occasions when you actually have a little time to read some articles, watch videos, and so forth," Oremus writes. "It represents a way for Facebook to go after the Flipboard audience without detracting from the utilitarian functionality of its main app."
Hard to Find
There was one other consistent complaint on Monday: the app is really hard to find in the App Store.
What do I have to search for in the app store to find Paper?— Ben Dreyfuss (@bendreyfuss) February 3, 2014
Have we ever talked about how terrible search is in the App Store? pic.twitter.com/QEPMJRrDX4— Mark Slutsky (@totallyslutsky) February 3, 2014
Thankfully, the SEO mavens at Business Insider happily took advantage of that problem with a post solely dedicated to providing the link to downloading the app. Here's the link to download for the early adopters out there.