Facebook recently announced a new dedicated iPhone called Paper that lets you "explore and share stories" in a more beautiful way. The app will be available in the US February 3 and I'm curious to see how long it'll take for a release outside the US.
As you can see on the teaser page for Paper and the promo video above, Paper is a gesture based app with a full-screen, edge-to-edge layout that may remind you of Flipboard for iPhone. But not only the design may show some similarities, but also the content: a mixture of "personal stories", shared links and articles, and curated content. Even the usual posts from your News Feed like status updates, photos and links will be shown in a more beautiful way. The curated area can be arranged to contain whatever news you want and includes "photos, videos, articles, essays and other insights."
Aside from being something you can already have with similar apps, I see a big concern behind this idea – your News Feed. The things people think they have to share with you are not often something really relevant to what you would want to have intermixed with "great content". It is totally up to you whom you're friends with on Facebook, but there's also family, relatives, and closer friends who appear on your News Feed on a daily basis, and be honest (for those who are on Facebook) what does your News Feed look like, something you've seen in the video?
I would be interested in how the curated content differs from other apps. If they share the same sources, why/how would the content be different? I see a benefit in having "Trending" topics as sharing on Facebook is huge. But again, what makes trending topics on Facebook more interesting to me than trending topics in apps that focus on "good content"?
Trending topics started to appear more on Facebook lately and they are of course quite accurate to what's really trending at the moment. Below you can see the trending topics for "Sunday, February 2 at ~7 PM CST", including the preview on Facebook and link to the article (when you click on the image).
And once again back to the probably horrible truth you'll be seeing in Paper. If Paper will be considered as some form of "Newspaper" with trending articles and stories from your friends, you could also start reading The Onion to get "real news". There is always this huge difference between what is important to you, and what seems important to others.
My second concern is again, what people actually share on social networks like Facebook. The main concept of Paper is to "explore and share" your stories. Share your world/life with everybody around you – not just your loved ones, because how many people do you really consider "close friends" on Facebook? The last "scene" in the video is the perfect example: Sharing a picture of an ultrasound image with only your "Friends" (a selected list in your privacy settings) for this particular post, while the person you see looking at it sees the image as a "Public" post. I can't say if this is normal or a "continuity" goof, but anyway, is this person a family member, a friend, or the father of the baby? You can't tell in the video. This whole share everything gives me a mixed feeling.
It'll be interesting to see how Paper and Facebook will develop in the future and especially if Paper will be a "new thing" or if it will be gone again before it's really relevant, like Facebook Camera did before.