Talking tech since 2003

Facebook today released a brand new mobile app for iOS, one billed as a new way to browse both the News Feed and news stories shared on the site — Paper. At first glance, it looks like Flipboard with a Facebook-centric approach, but once you start to dig a bit deeper into the app, it becomes clear that Paper is much more than a fancy Facebook magazine — it’s the direction Facebook may be taking its main app in the future.

facebook-iconWhen announcing Paper, Facebook put a lot of emphasis on the app’s user interface. Paper looks great and runs smooth on the iPhone 5s. The experience revolves around “Sections,” which include the News Feed as well as curated content categories like Headlines, Tech, LOL and so forth. On the Facebook website as well as in its primary mobile apps, The News Feed rules and outside content has to fight for attention against updates from friends. In Paper, though, that content ascends to equal footing with the News Feed. It’s a big move by Facebook; an acknowledgment that these stories are the reason a lot of people use the social network.

But that isn’t all the app is. Your first few minutes with Paper might make you think so. Facebook’s own approach in messaging seems designed to lead us down that path. But this is probably because changes to Facebook never seem to go over well, and this is a major, major change.

A large amount of Facebook is built into Paper, ever so subtly. You can search for and view profiles. You can accept friend requests. You can message. You can even view the pages you like and the groups you’re a part of, and post to both. And perhaps the most telling: you can set Facebook notifications to open in Paper instead of the main Facebook app, though this option is off by default.

Almost anything you can do in Facebook, you can do in Paper, and there could be one of two reasons for that. Either Facebook is using Paper as a way to test potential features for the main Facebook app (as it does with Messenger and Camera) or the company is grooming Paper to eventually supplant its primary app. Either way, it’s looking quite a bit like Paper may be the future of Facebook mobile. It’s a bold move, for sure, but I think it’s a good one.

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