February 4th marked the 10-year anniversary of Facebook, a milestone they’re celebrating with a shift in focus from the desktop social network to creating apps for mobile devices. The brain center of this initiative is Facebook Creative Labs, which is encouraging the company’s staff to develop external apps.
The first product from this creative endeavor is Paper, which was released on iOS on February 3rd.
Facebook describes the standalone app as a medium for consuming “beautiful storytelling from friends and the world.” In more words, Paper is an extremely intuitive reader that simulates the experience of consuming content from a newspaper or magazine. Navigating between stories is accomplished by swiping left to right or tilting your device, much like turning a page. Stories are expanded by swiping upward, prompting them to unfold like a newspaper.
Paper delivers stories full screen and with photos and video, encouraging users to explore content visually and watch as stories develop with comments from others. Paper is a product considerably different from many of the others released by Facebook, and so has been its reception. Changes to the social network are often met with criticism. Past product launches, like Facebook Home and Facebook Poke, were met with so much resistance they’ve been overwhelmingly considered flops. Paper, however, has been predominately well received, if not praised.
In the excitement surrounding Facebook’s release of Paper, there are a few who aren’t impressed—like the folks at FiftyThree, who designed their own very popular iOS app by the same name in 2012. It was so popular in fact that their Paper earned Apple’s 2012 iPad App of the Year award.
Georg Petschnigg, co-founder and CEO of FiftyThree, points out in a statement released on their blog, “An app about stories shouldn’t start with someone else’s story.” He goes on to say, “What will Facebook’s story be? Will they be the corporate giant who bullies their developers? Or be agile, recognize a mistake, and fix it?”
That story is still lacking a conclusion, but another interesting thread in the Facebook Creative Labs plot is the in-house tool they used to develop Paper. They’ve called it Origami and it too is now available for free.
While Origami isn’t a product the average Facebook user will probably ever find a need for, the app it helped launch will likely find a place on the mobile devices of the masses. These, along with Facebook Creative Labs, seem to usher in a new era of Facebook products that look and serve a purpose very different from the social network that 1.23 billion of us have come to know. And, as Facebook turns 10, we continue to follow along as the company starts a new chapter its story, one that has captivated us for a decade now.