10 first reactions to Facebook Paper

4

Facebook Paper for iPhone and iPod hit the iOS App Store this week and if you haven’t downloaded it, you should. It’s actually pretty great. So much so that it inspired me to pull together ten first impressions of what it means for digital marketers.

1. Facebook is a mobile company.

If there were any remaining questions about Facebook’s mobile chops after the Q4 earnings call, then Paper cements Facebook’s status as an elite mobile company. They know their future is mobile and this app shows they’re able to not only create a fun and elegant user experience, but as you’ll see below, illustrates that they can be very forward thinking about how mobile will impact their business going forward.

In juxtaposition to their miserable first mobile attempts, Paper fixes everything. Every detail is considered; world-class professionals have crafted this app.

The “unboxing” experience (if an app can be unboxed) is easy and helpful — no logging-in because iPhone already has my credentials; the intro video is sweet; the gestures are easy to understand and get the hang of; and the app’s personality (she’s sweet) suggests things as she discovers you might need help.

2. Facebook is a learning company.

There was no hype, no private invitations or press event, just a blog post and then a few days later a fully-formed app that was available to the masses. This launch approach has been much more cautious than in the past and seems to suggest that a more test and learn approach has settled-in. This isn’t the Lean Start-Up approach of launching an MVP — there’s nothing minimal about Paper.

3. Facebook is a fast-follower (sorta).

For many companies, especially as they go public and get big, their openness to risk and therefore innovation, decreases. While Paper was developed by an internal skunk works team called Creative Labs, it’s clear much of this app was inspired (nice way to put it) by Flipboard. I don’t blame them, Flipboard had a profound effect on me the first time I logged in to Facebook and Twitter as well. The reimagining of Facebook as a newspaper fits quite well, especially as they move away from text updates and toward even more visual posts.

Until now I’ve thought of Twitter as a master fast-follower, now it looks like Facebook may be making progress here too.

4. To be truly useful, I need more control.

The “sections,” another idea plucked from Flipboard, are impressive on day one and I’m fine exploring what they’ve pulled together. But soon I’m going to want to make my own sections, both from websites I find as well as from people I already have connections with. Custom sections can’t come soon enough.

It’s still very much a browsing experience, but maybe that’s OK. When I can create my own sections like I create lists on Twitter, then Paper, and more specifically Facebook, will actually be useful and not just fun. 

5. Instagram needs a facelift.

I know Paper is all about news and aggregating popular content from across the social graph, but this experience works because of photography. Paper is primed for better Instagram integration, and makes me realize how badly Instagram needs a makeover. Instagram photos posted to Facebook appear like any other photo, but in Paper they’re coming through more like link posts than the cool tilt to scroll photo posts.

The Instagram app instantly feels ancient, and not in a classics/Egypt/Iliad sort of way. Instagram needs to break out of its low-res, square photo format and give us the immersive mobile photo and video experience we now crave. Pretty please.