Facebook gave itself a much-needed makeover for its 10th birthday , but you won't see a change unless you know where to look. The overhaul is part of Paper, a stand-alone iOS app that's part News Feed, part newsreader.
Paper is the next phase of Facebook's mobile-first strategy: A set of separate, Facebook-adjacent experiences that break apart what makes Facebook part of our daily routine and reassembles its best parts as new apps. There's Instagram for photo sharing, Messenger for chatting, and now Paper for reading.
Change is scary for Facebook users. We've become accustomed to the simple, soothing blue-and-white color scheme of the network's website and apps. And remember when the introduction of News Feed caused an unholy ruckus? Aren't we all still recovering from being Timelined?
That's why Paper had to be separate. A stand-alone app doesn't feel like such a drastic change. It feels optional. And Paper is optional. But it will replace Facebook's main app if users feel the fear and install it anyway.
Tiles, tiles everywhere
Facebook isn't known for its beautiful design, but Paper is a visual revolution for the network. Zuckerberg brought on Mike Matas, a former Apple designer and founder of e-book publisher Push Pop Press, to craft the look of Paper.
The app's design is heavy on tiles. When you launch Paper for the first time, you have to select sections for your personalized newspaper by swiping labeled cards — Headlines, Cute, Creators, and 17 other options — into place. It's such a design departure for the network that it's hard to believe Facebook and Paper are the same, if it weren't the News Feed in your face.
Paper is so customizable that News Feed doesn't even have to be the first section you see — you can place it behind the other topics you'd like to read first. For now, my personalized paper puts News Feed front and center, but that could easily change. The design of each section, including the Facebook part, is the same: Rotating images above the fold (in newspaper speak) with text overlays for headlines or status updates, then a series of tiles, or stories, that you can scroll through by swiping to the right. Swiping the top image will take you to the next section in your Paper.
The large, above-the-fold images are a remnant of Facebook's previous attempts at changing its look, first with a redesigned News Feed that was subsequently scrapped and then with Facebook Home, its failed Android launcher. Home's Cover Feed, which put rotating images from your friends on your phone's lock screen, was always a visually appealing way to interact with Facebook, so its return as an element of Paper is a pleasant surprise.
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