The world was a different place when Facebook launched 10 years ago.  Their desktop application brought the outside world into every dorm room in America.  Suddenly students could keep up with their friends around campus and around the world with the click of a mouse.

Fast forward to today. The demographic makeup of the Facebook community has changed as people of all ages have joined the network. The way we use it has changed dramatically, too.  Instead of bringing the world to our desktops, we take our social apps with us wherever we go.  The world has gone mobile.

Facebook struggled to keep up with the pace of change in the world of smartphone technology. While Twitter stayed ahead of the curve with its news feed and simple image upload, Facebook stumbled awkwardly with its clunky interface in the age of touchscreens.

The purchase of digital picture sharing service Instagram almost two years ago helped, but Facebook still had a lot of catching up to do.  Their new mobile application “Paper” is designed to put them solidly back in the game.

What is Paper?

Paper is a new way to read updates from Facebook on your phone or tablet.  Large images dominate the newsfeed as you scroll horizontally through status updates from friends and families.  You also have the option of adding curated news organized by category to your streaming updates.

Facebook has called this new technology “distraction free browsing.” It’s a nice change from the cluttered screens of the legacy desktop interface.

What I Like:

  • Similar to popular news reading apps Feedly and Flipboard, the big images draw me into the stories.
  • Horizontal tiling allows me to see several updates at once. I can browse my feed faster now.
  • Selecting an individual story expands it to the full width of the screen making it easier to read or view associated images.
  • Status updates open a full screen for you to work in.
  • Friends, messages and notifications are still easy to find at the top of the page.

What I Don’t Like:

  • The touch screen is meant to be intuitive. I occasionally end up in a post and have trouble getting back to my home feed.
  • While the idea of the curated content is interesting in theory, it is limited in scope. If lots of people add the section labeled “Cute” and share content from it, users will see the same images and stories over and over again. I wish I could customize my Paper by adding my own newsfeeds
  •  Not all standard or expected features have made their way into Paper. For example, I can’t find an “Events” function anywhere.
  • Paper is a hefty application, making it run slowly on my iPhone4S. (There has never been a better time to upgrade!)
  • Company updates on pages I have liked are nonexistent.  I have to actively search for them.

Facebook has stated that Paper isn’t meant to completely replace the desktop version or proprietary app. However- as it catches on and more people move to touch screens- it might end up filling those roles.

Have you played with Facebook’s Paper?  What do you think?