Facebook cuts Paper app from its lineup

The world's largest social network initially created its Paper app to experiment with new ways to read Facebook. Two and a half years later, it's being shut down.

Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
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Alas, poor Paper, we knew you kinda well.


In Silicon Valley, hype and praise can only get you so far.

The latest example is Facebook's Paper app, originally revealed in January 2014 as a new way to read news while also surfing the social network. The app had two main functions: a feed of friend's photos, videos and other activities, and a stream of news stories picked by Facebook.

The social networking giant said the app will be shuttered by July 29.

"We know that Paper really resonated with you -- the people who used it -- so we've tried to take the best aspects of it and incorporate them into the main Facebook app," Facebook wrote in a note that was -- of course -- posted to the Paper app. "Our goal with Paper was to explore new immersive, interactive design elements for reading and interacting with content on Facebook, and we learned how important these elements are in giving people an engaging experience."

Paper is just the latest Facebook app to get the ax. Late last year, the company shut down some of its other experimental apps, such as Slingshot, Riff and Rooms. Each app was pitched as part of Facebook's efforts to explore new ways to encourage people to share with friends. Indeed, some of the more popular functions from the apps were integrated into Facebook's flagship products. But the praise and attention they got weren't enough to attract enough regular users to keep the apps running.

Paper in particular was probably one of Facebook's most popular experimental apps. CNET's Jason Parker gave the app a 4.5-star rating when it launched, saying its focus on new ways to display photos made it particularly compelling. "It's definitely possible, and maybe even preferred, to make Paper your go-to Facebook app," he wrote.

All the press coverage helped Paper to initially become one of the most downloaded programs in Apple's App Store. But interest and usage waned. Data from SurveyMonkey Intelligence indicated less than 1 percent of people who downloaded the app actually still used it over the past six months. By comparison, nearly 80 percent of people who downloaded Facebook's flagship app used it at least once a month, according to SurveyMonkey's data.

All's not lost, though. Facebook said Paper helped inspire other projects at the company. That includes its Instant Articles feature, which allows publishers to more easily share stories, photos and videos with the nearly 1 billion people who access the service each day on a mobile device.