Update: Paper by Facebook is now available on the iTunes App Store.
Facebook has announced a new standalone news reader app called Paper. Scheduled for release on February 3, the app takes a few design cues from Flipboard, but combines both human and algorithm based curation while adding some sharing features of its own. In a way it’s also a reimagining of the Facebook News Feed.
In fact the first thing you’ll see upon launching the app are highlighted photos and videos from your friends on the top half of the screen, with long posts and other updates you can scroll through sideways on the bottom half. From there users can customize Paper and make it their own by adding a variety of sections covering different themes and topics -- from photography and sports to food, science and design.
These are not mixed together but rather live in their own separate screens you can swipe though. Each section includes a mix of content from well-known publications, emerging authors, public figure or just your average Joe. For now, everyone who adds a Section to their Paper will see the same story in it, but according to TechCrunch, Facebook is considering letting users personalize what they’ll see inside sections as well.
Paper also lets you share your own stories with an elegant editor that gives you an accurate preview of how your story will appear to other users, as you are creating it -- much like Medium's and Svbltle's blogging systems.
The app makes extensive use of gestures as well as fluid-looking animations to help you navigate through the interface. Tap an item and it will unfold to occupy the full screen, pinching it folds it back up, while wide photos pan as you tilt the phone. Loren Brichter, whose Letterpress and Tweetie apps have been universally praised for their intuitive interfaces and gestures, reportedly contributed to Paper.
Paper is the first product from Facebook Creative Labs, an initiative to let small teams within Facebook build standalone mobile apps. The idea is to create apps that serve a specific purpose and offer streamlined experiences, rather than cramming the Facebook app with tons of new functionality.