A New Leaf: Everything You Need To Know About Facebook's New App, Paper

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Facebook is celebrating its tenth birthday this week by turning over a new leaf, and it's doing it with Paper, a new, standalone app that was released by the company on Monday. Paper can best be described as a new, news-centric social network.

If a user is signed in to Facebook, Paper will automatically connect to his or her profile upon being downloaded. The homepage consists of two parts: a bottom half that displays a list of articles and stories that have been shared by friends, which can be browsed by a horizontal swipe of the finger, and a top half that displays the Facebook newsfeed in slideshow format, while reserving the upper right corner for small icons that show Facebook notifications.

Swiping through the top half of the homepage brings users to sections of their "Paper" that they can designate, such as "tech" and "score" (Paper's sports section).

Facebook's new app indicates a sense of self-awareness for the company. While the number of Facebook users has continued to increase -- it's reported to have reached up to 1.25 billion -- the average amount of time being spent by users on the social network has been known to take a dip.

According to a recent Pew study, only four percent of users update their statuses more than once a day. In terms of minute-to-minute use, Twitter and Instagram are more likely to attract users who enjoy browsing their timelines for large chunks of time.

One of the greatest factors, though, behind Facebook being able to keep up has been its usefulness as a platform to share news, posts and links.

With Paper, Facebook has capitalized on that, making an app that cuts out all the fat of the social network's original app and focuses on its one big strength. It's a move so bold and so admirable, it has widely been described as an app created by Facebook to replace Facebook.

"Paper's Facebook feed is just a better-looking, more responsive version of what you'll find inside the company's main app," wrote Ellis Hamburger of The Verge, which gave the app an 8.5 out of 10 rating in its review. Even Paper's product manager himself hinted at the new app's ability to replace Facebook, remarking that he only uses the original application "once in a while." “Mostly I use [Paper],” designer Mike Matas told Tech Crunch.

While many have hailed the launch of Facebook, there are few parties that are unimpressed, namely FiftyThree, the makers of a popular app of their own, also called Paper.

Officially trademarked as Paper by FiftyThree, the app, which is available exclusively on the iPad, acts as digital paper on which users can design their own projects. So popular is the app, that it earned the 2012 Best App Of The Year award from Apple.

While Facebook has stayed true to its motto, "move fast and break things," FiftyThree is hoping that, along with the relevance of Facebook's original app, the popularity of its own "Paper" is not broken, as well.

"There's a simple fix here," FiftyThree CEO Georg Petschnigg wrote in a blog post. "We think Facebook can apply the same degree of thought they put into the app into building a brand name of their own. An app about stories shouldn't start with someone else's story. Facebook should stop using our brand name."

For now, though, the two apps won't be clashing in iOS stores, as FiftyThree's product is only available on the iPad and Facebook's on the iPhone. In the meantime, Facebook has offered "no comment" for FiftyThree's troubles.

Paper is the first creation to come of out Facebook's "Creative Labs" initiative, which was set up to craft "new apps to support the diverse ways people want to connect and share."

If there's any indication that it could become the new app du jour, it's the use of Paper around Facebook's offices in Menlo Park, CA. Employees are rumored to have been using the new app for months, while completely doing away with the original Facebook app. Apparently, there's no bigger fan than Mark Zuckerberg himself:

“He loves [Paper.] He uses it, and he's just excited to launch like we are," product manager Michael Reckhow told TechCrunch.

On a week during which the social network is celebrating its tenth birthday, Zuckerberg will be hoping that Paper is a gift everyone will love just as much.