When I downloaded Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) new app yesterday, I was immediately disappointed. The app, called Paper, is a news curator with the Facebook news feed built in. While the news was nice, my Facebook stories seemed like an unwelcome intrusion.
Fast-forward several hours later, and I loved the app so much that I deleted my Facebook app on all my devices. Turns out I misinterpreted the app's potential in a major way.
Paper can replace Facebook
Before my 180-degree turnaround on Facebook's new app, I sent an email to Motley Fool Technology Bureau Chief Evan Niu, venting my frustration. The news feed seemed to overpower the experience, I explained.
But Evan and I didn't see eye to eye. Evan's take:
I'm actually kind of bullish on it. It has a pretty smooth interface and design and it's a big push into curated content. It's also low risk because they're just testing it out, but has a lot of potential as the new core Facebook News Feed app. We'll see.
His view on the app was coming from a completely different angle. A potential replacement to the traditional Facebook app? I hadn't thought of that.
Thinking of Paper as an enhanced Facebook app, the curated news began to seem like a sweet addition to my Facebook browsing experience. It took on a new form: a more powerful and extra-personalized app that was meant to make the original app obsolete. Indeed, Facebook's core functions, including chatting, sharing, and "liking," were all built right into the app, so I actually could get away with deleting the Facebook app.
Paper, I realized, is an upgrade. The experience was suddenly refreshing; instead of always mindlessly browsing my news feed while I waited for friends to reply back in the Facebook chat, I could now use that time to comb through high-quality, curated news. After my epiphany, I pressed the home button, held down my finger on my Facebook app until it began to wiggle, and I deleted it. Then I walked over to my iPad and did the same thing.
Is Facebook's "personalized newspaper" finally here?
Facebook's aspiration to become your personalized newspaper is nothing new. In a March 2013 Facebook press conference held to unveil the company's new timeline, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that its goal was to "give everyone in the world the best possible personalized newspaper we can."
While Facebook's new timeline may have been a meaningful step toward personalized news, Facebook's new Paper app may be the first sign that Facebook can succeed in the effort. For the first time, Facebook's news feed ties in meaningfully with personalized news.
Many people will probably disagree with my enthusiasm for Paper. Fortunately, that's OK. Users don't have to download it. Best of all, as Evan said, the new app really offers nothing but upside to investors, thanks to virtually no downside risk. If it turns out to be popular, Facebook can take features and ideas from it and apply it to the Facebook app (or displace the old app entirely). If it only succeeds with a minority of users, the app can serve as an alternative for a small group of people who want a different Facebook experience. If it flops, Facebook can move on.