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As expected, today's launch of Paper by Facebook for iPhone marks the social media giant's latest attempt to shake up its effective but aging template. If there's a problem, it's that it triggers a touch too much deja vu. Existing apps like Feedly and Flipboard already offer similar services drawn from RSS feeds and the like, but Paper cobbles its magazine-like interface out of posts from your Facebook home feed and a hodgepodge of other links suited to your interests.
In Facebook's words, "The first section in Paper is your Facebook News Feed, where you'll enjoy inspiring new designs for photos, videos, and longer written posts. You can customize Paper with a choice of more than a dozen other sections about various themes and topics—from photography and sports to food, science and design. Each section includes a rich mix of content from emerging voices and well-known publications."
Zuckerberg and Co. hope that Paper will replace the typical News Feed on mobile devices, but based on my brief experiments throughout the day, the required swipes and flipping marks a significant slowdown from merely scrolling through your feed. The idea may be to increase readability, but it seems to slog down the quickie browsing required when you have dozens or hundreds of posts to sift through.
As MacRumors notes, the very name brings Paper into conflict with the beloved Paper by FiftyThree sketch app, leading the studio to confront Facebook with an open letter asking the social media team to "build a brand name of their own." The New York Times even picked up the story, which captured co-founder Georg Petschnigg's frustration. "We have, in writing, asked Facebook to refrain from using the name," said Petschnigg. "But their response was that they apologized for not letting us know sooner, but as it stands, they are continuing with the launch."
Since "Paper by FiftyThree" is trademarked in several other countries besides the United States, it's possible we'll see some legal action out of this. For now, you can download Facebook's Paper here. And if you're so inclined, you can download FiftyThree's Paper app here.
Follow this article's writer, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.