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Facebook’s new official iPhone app released Monday this week, and it’s a fresh new take on the Facebook experience. Facebook Paper is the first product from Facebook Creative Labs, a small design team dedicated to “crafting new apps to support the diverse ways people want to connect and share.” It sounds like a fancy way of saying, “testing out new ideas without the masses flipping out over interface changes.”
Facebook Paper is a free iPhone app (no current plans for Android or iPad) that’s separate from the main Facebook application. Soon after its release, it shot up the App Store’s chart, landing in the top 5 free apps. The seeks to provide stories in an aesthetically pleasing manner and to browse through them with “simple, natural movements.”
Facebook’s main mobile app has become a bit bloated over the years, and Paper slims the experience down to its core components: viewing and sharing stories. Basically, Paper turns Facebook into your own personalized newspaper.
Your main news feed screen is separated vertically into two sections. The top square pulls various photo-related stories from you feed and automatically scrolls through them, giving you a brief overview of what your friends have been up to.
Most of your browsing will be done on the bottom half of the screen. Here you can horizontally scroll though your friends’ posts. Tapping or swiping up on a post will stretch it to become full screen, and swiping it down will return you the news feed.
Reading posts on Paper is a really easy distraction-free experience. It gives every single post, photo, video or album its own dedicated screen. Photos in particular have very unique viewing method. Wide photos will display at full height in portrait mode, and you can use your phones gyroscope to explore the photo in a panoramic sort of way.
Browsing user profiles gives easy access to a timeline of events organized by year. You can go back and view a history of your posts all the way back to the beginning. It seems much easier than I’ve found in Facebook’s other offerings.
In addition to your own personal news feed, Paper also includes additional topics of news to add to your stable of stories, bringing the whole “personalized newspaper” idea a step further. After launching the app, Paper provides you a list of 19 categories to choose from. Topics range from headlines news, celebrity pop culture, photography and sports. There’s even a section dedicated to cute animal pictures. it’s the Internet, after all.
These selected categories can be accessed by swiping to the left on the top section of your personal news feed. Navigation works the same here, except your friends’ posts are replaced from news articles and photos from various sources, such as CNN, National Geographic and Wired. Swiping up on an article gives a brief summary and a link to the full thing. Swiping or tapping on the link plays charming animation of the article “unfolding” before your eyes and opens it up within the app for your reading pleasure. Swiping downwards closes the article and brings you back to the summary page, which you can use to directly like, comment or share it like any other Facebook post.
Paper includes other basic Facebook features, such as notifications and messaging. You can even opt to force notifications to open in Paper rather than the original Facebook app. You can continue to create status updates and post photos through Paper, but more granular control over your profile seems to be absent. I couldn’t find a way to modify my profile picture or cover photo, and it doesn’t seem possible to create or organize photo albums, so you may need to keep your old Facebook around if you’re more of a power user.
Unlike Facebook’s other mobile experience, there currently aren’t any ads littered through your feed, but that could change depending on Paper’s reception. Paper feels experimental in many ways. It certainly is a more pleasing way of viewing Facebook, but it also seems like a matter of form over function. I find the old Facebook app to be easier at browsing Facebook at a glance, but for people who want a more personal experience, Paper seems to be on the right track. If anything, Paper could be seen as a preview of things to come from Facebook in terms of design.
If you’ve got an iPhone, Paper can currently be downloaded for free on the Apple App Store.
By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra