Author: Tali Swann-Sternberg, User Experience Architect

This week Facebook released Paper, a stand-alone iPhone app that reimagines the mobile Facebook experience. At its core, Paper is your Facebook news feed, repackaged. This is not to undervalue the new package. With Apple alum Mike Matas leading its design, Paper offers a beautiful, minimalist interface that eschews chrome in favor of a gesture-focused experience that prioritizes content. Compare the news feed of Facebook’s main app with Paper’s below. In Paper, news stories are presented as horizontally scrolling cards that expand to fill the screen. Full-bleed images and photos that pan when you tilt the phone create an inviting and immersive visual experience. With limited user interface elements, there is little to distract you from your friends’ posts. There is also little to direct your interactions. There will certainly be a learning curve as users discover the gestures necessary to navigate, but the interactions appear intuitive and remain consistent with established gesture patterns. Paper will also help out with contextual gesture tips if a user seems stuck.

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But Paper is more than a redesigned Facebook news feed. Paper seeks to broaden Facebook’s scope by repositioning the news feed within a larger content ecosystem. Taking a cue from Flipboard, Paper offers curated content in categories such as “Headlines,” “Creators” and “Flavor.” Facebook’s news feed thus becomes just one category within a series of digital magazines.

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Paper’s curated content represents a decisive move by Facebook to increase its relevance in users’ exploration and consumption of online content. Last year, we saw Facebook attempting to combat Facebook fatigue with news feed tweaks aimed at prioritizing “high-quality content.” Paper’s digital magazines now move Facebook’s efforts for quality content beyond the confines of the news feed. With this foray into content curation, in an app with notably limited Facebook branding, the social network is trying to push the Facebook experience beyond, well, Facebook. This trend will continue. Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained that the company’s goal is to “build a handful of different experiences that people don’t think of as Facebook.”

Paper’s release comes less than a week after Facebook announced its 2013 fourth-quarter earnings, which marked the first time mobile advertising accounted for the majority of revenue. For now, Paper is ad-free, but we can expect this to change if Paper proves successful. Check out the app in the video below, or download it.