A few days ago we were talking about how might be beneficial for Facebook to have more assets and expand, especially on mobile, where other apps are competing with the social network. It seemed someone was listening to us, because after a couple of days Facebook introduced Paper, which is going to be available on the 3rd of February, only on the Apple Store.
Paper is the result of Facebook Creative Labs, a place where developers “are crafting new apps to support the diverse ways people want to connect and share.” This is probably one of the first attempt to turn a 6,000 people company in a startup, by taking the most creative designers and engineers and let them work together.
Facebook was probably impressed by Flipboard that was able to show us the content produced on websites and social networks from a different perspective. That’s where the first inspiration might have come from. Paper is focused on extrapolating the data that comes from the newsfeed and showing it by using pictures, text and links. The aim is to introduce a way to make the content more enjoyable. In the past year, Facebook’s newsfeed has been a continuos and infinite scroll, what they wondered was if they could show us the content in a better way.
From the videos and the pictures that Facebook released it seems that they built a beautiful app for content discovery. They are always trying to adapt the newsfeed to what we like and want to read, and if they also find the key to make the reading and discovering experience neater, they will boost what they are looking for, user engagement.
Paper is not going to compete with Flipboard or other apps in the mobile market. By using your own content, you are not expanding and trying to compete, you are just looking at the user engagement. They want to make the users more willing to share and like their friend’s posts and pictures.
We consider Paper as another asset, not because it has introduced something new, but because it might be a new source of revenues for Facebook. We don’t know the market penetration that an app like that could have, but we know that some of us are going to love it. Once you have built a community around the app, you can sell them whatever you want.
However Paper doesn’t solve what we were wondering. Facebook seems to be focused just on one platform, but what if they try to get out their comfort zone and build something completely different? Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected, but where is the limit to that? We know that uncle Zuck wants to get 5 billion people on its platform, but at some point the curve is going to stop. At that point Facebook will have to rely on user engagement and on the other assets that “should have”.
Snapchat could have been a great asset because it’s what we mean by “outside of Facebook’s comfort zone”. In the same way, Instagram was. People have started to use products such as Whatsapp and Snapchat, which have nothing to do with the Facebook’s platform. That’s why we wonder if trying to show Facebook’s content in a different way is the key to win the mobile war.