This week, Facebook will have two big causes for celebration. On Monday, the company will release a new iPhone app. On Tuesday, the website will turn 10.
A new iPhone app? New software would seem to pale against a decade of existence—ten years in which the company has gone from a dorm room conception to a $150 billion capitalization, in which a website that once required harvard.edu email addresses became the world’s second most-visited.
But the new app, named Paper, is more important than it may first appear. It signals a change, long-time coming, for how the company interacts with consumers, and marks a new sort of competition among social networks. It’s a change that could affect far more than the iPhone users who will download the app on Monday.
But to understand why, you have to understand the app.
(UPDATE, 12:30 p.m.: Facebook has now released Paper—you can download it here.)
Designy, and Millennial-Attuned
Will Oremus at Slate put it best: Paper is Facebook by another name. It’s extra-special Facebook, though: Facebook in a different shell, and Facebook with some super powers.
Paper (the app, not the material) seems to have two major feature sets. First, it reformats Facebook’s News Feed to be more graphic, with full-screen photos, videos, and prettified status updates and links. News Feed is what you see when you open Facebook.com—it’s been the company’s principal way of showing new Facebook content since 2006.
Paper supplants it. It lumps “stories”—it refers constantly to stories and they seem like its base-unit of content—from far-flung friends, newspaper front pages, and cat-centric video accounts together, while sorting content into Millennial-attuned topics like “Headlines,” “Creators,” and “Planet.”