Software: Thoughts on Facebook’s “Paper”

Full disclosure:

I am not a Facebook fan. At all.

I pretty much have an account for the few dear friends that continue to use the service to contact me via messaging and for me to stay abreast of all things “social” for my day job and freelance gigs. I use it sparingly and when I do I rarely enjoy it. The UI/UX (user interface and user experience) on their website has been a veritable, well-documented train wreck for years now. And when you add in the convoluted, borderline impossible privacy settings… it elevates the FB experience from nuisance, to possibly damning in every social regard.

High drama I know, but in my defense, the “content” (if you can call it that) is a far pinker elephant in the room than my disdain.  In my humble opinion Facebook will end up being one of the biggest missed opportunities my generation will have to fess up to before we die.

Why we changed one of the greatest opportunities in history to connect with each other into an open forum to show our ugliest selves will always bother me.

It’s not ALL like that of course. But come on… We all know what I am taking about.

A new take on a hopeless problem.

So while we won’t ever change the way FB churns its gears day in and day out, that hasn’t stopped the social juggernaut from attempting to change the way we look at it all.

Over the years, they’ve iterated on their official app several times with limited success in changing anything I’ve listed above. But this week? This week was different. On Monday they launched a reimagining of their service, a not so cleverly named app called “Paper”.  And, by golly, all of that developer poaching they did over the years has finally paid off!

Making Lemonade.

The first thing you’ll notice right out of the gate while using Facebook’s Paper is that this is a far cry from the Facebook you use on an hourly basis. In fact, I would go as far to say that if it wasn’t for the ill-placed “Facebook” at the top of the initial feed you see in Paper, that you wouldn’t even know you were using a Facebook app. This is a good thing.

Gone are the columns, the click-bait ads, the blue, the shotgun blast of options, the overt notifications, the noise (dear god the noise)… pretty much everything I didn’t like about the UI/UX of the original Facebook app, has been replaced by something entirely different. You launch the app and after you get through the initial onboarding process, you are met immediately with pictures of your friends (and their kids/infants – no, that hasn’t changed), clean lines, clean fonts, very little chrome and an intuitive navigation that is almost entirely gesture-based.

It took me roughly 5 minutes to find literally everything I needed to make Facebook work as it always has for me in the past. Even though everything had changed, miraculously, nothing had been taken away. And just like that, the overall experience of using Facebook had been made exponentially better! This isn’t another rehash of the Facebook a lot of us apparently love and adore – this is its reinvention, and if I was a betting man? I’d say this is what Facebook will be in a few months.

In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Facebook replaced their official iOS app entirely with Paper. If only to get rid that awful app icon that Paper currently has, but I digress.

Is there anything else? What’s up with these other news feeds?

I almost didn’t mention the fact that Paper also has a limited number of “feeds” that deliver content from external sources like CNN, NYT, The Verge, The Wire, Politico, etc… covering a range of topics like “Tech”, “Creators”, “Planet” and “Ideas”. Why? It’s because, frankly, I already have several tried and true, thoroughly enjoyable ways to syndicate and consume information from those kinds of channels. Facebook is immensely late to this game and adding it in now (as pretty as it is) seems like gross afterthought on their part and it definitely, unfortunately for them, comes across that way.

Will you like it better than the zillion other ways you can consume headlines on the computers on your desk and in your pocket? I highly doubt it. But they do exist in Paper if you want to check them out. Just follow the steps during the setup process when you fire up Paper initially.

Like everything else the developers did with Paper, it’s pretty, and straightforward.

So why continue using Facebook’s official app?

That’s an excellent question. After a day of use, I’ve already deleted the official FB app from my iPhone and made my Facebook mobile experience solely Paper-based. And guess what? I’ve used Facebook more in 48 hours than I have in the last 3 months. No joke.

Yes the content is still the same, a lot of what I dislike is still there (I can’t blame Facebook for my feed’s complaints, topics, taste, or… well, you get my point), but man is this a great study in how changing something as subtle (and immensely complex) as an experience can change the way something old can feel.

If you are a fan of Facebook or if you’re simply curious about what the future of the service will more than likely be, I encourage you download Paper from the app store today and see for yourself.

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thaddeushunt

Writer, Dreamer, Web Designer, Gardner, Neo-Hippie, Horror Movie Junkie, Hiker, Traveler, CEO and Owner of Conduit Designs, LLC.

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