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On Paper, Facebook prettier, more graceful

Wednesday - 2/5/2014, 4:28am  ET

fbpaper320.jpg
Facebook's new Paper mobile app is an alternative to standard Facebook-to-go (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

WASHINGTON - Facebook has never looked better.

Facebook has launched a new mobile app, called Paper, which is dramatically different from its standard mobile application.

"Paper is a way to look at your news feed in a more graphical way," says Larry Magid, technology analyst for CBS News, CNET and Forbes.

"Pictures from your friends and other posts that might interest you are still there, but now they're more graphical, and you can flip from one to another," he says.

Paper lets users see photos posted on their news feed on the top half of the screen. Along the bottom, users can lithely scroll horizontally through friends' postings.

To dig deeper into an interesting post, thumb-swiping up makes the post full-screen, and offers the opportunity to like, comment or share.

Swiping up again opens any story links in the post.

Paper is only available in the Apple app store. Facebook has not announced plans for Android or Windows phone apps.

Magid says Paper is competing with Flipboard, which launched its social-network aggregation, magazine-format application software in 2010.

While making the reading experience more pleasing, Paper isn't just a reader app, he says. "In addition to being able to see stories you can also post on Facebook, it actually changes the interface slightly in the way you post, so it's really an alternative to the Facebook mobile app for people who want a more visual experience."

Perhaps the most scrutinized aspect of Paper is that it contains posts from non- friends and "Headlines" curated by algorithms and Facebook editors.

Some early observations have concluded that Facebook's choices often come from well- established media outlets, rather than individual posters.

While enjoying the first impressions of Paper, Magid says other Facebook alternative apps have failed to catch on.

"When I visit the Facebook campus I see signs that say 'Move fast and break things,' and that's sort of an attitude or corporate culture which says try different things," says Magid.

"Facebook puts a lot of stuff out there - some it it takes, some of it doesn't," says Magid. "I think the company wants to give its users a number of different ways to interact.

Even though some have predicted the appealing experience of Paper might render the regular Facebook app obsolete, Magid says that would be fine with the social networking giant, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary.

"They don't really care what tool you use," says Magid. "They just want you to be on Facebook, be exposed to their ads and be using their service so they can make more money."

Magid says Paper addresses two major components of Facebook's future success - being mobile, and graphical: "It knows it has to be big on mobile; that's where the future is. And it also knows we have to have more than words to communicate. Paper is mobile, and it's centered around the visual experience."

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