With Paper, Facebook campaigns for coolness

The company is looking to standalone apps and anonymity to pump some trendiness back into its network.

Jennifer Van Grove Former Senior Writer / News
Jennifer Van Grove covered the social beat for CNET. She loves Boo the dog, CrossFit, and eating vegan. Her jokes are often in poor taste, but her articles are not.
Jennifer Van Grove
4 min read
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg can publicly assert that he's absolutely A-OK with his social network merely being a routine function of our daily lives as opposed to something we seek out for pleasure. But, as the old adage goes, actions speak louder than words.

If we're listening to Zuckerberg's actions, the message is clear: Facebook is desperate to work its way back into the cool crowd.

Thursday, the social network announced Paper, an iPhone-only application arriving February 3 and offering mobile audiences a derivative experience to the social network's status quo. The application, a product of Facebook's new Creative Labs unit, presents a modern reimagining of News Feed where photos, videos, and posts are tailored for enjoyment on smartphones. The app also comes with more than a dozen newspaper-like sections that you can use to gather news on your favorite topics.

You could call Paper a newsreader, particularly since it has hints of Flipboard, but that would be a simplification of what Facebook is trying to accomplish. Facebook isn't trying to change the way you read the news; it's trying to change the way you think of Facebook.

Paper represents the first attack in a fight to take back its reputation as a company that can innovate. Facebook is fighting competitors such Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and anyone threatening to steal away social networkers' time and attention. But, more importantly, the company is fighting against its own reputation as a stale, if not nearly expired, social destination where people come back because they feel compelled to by familial obligations, not necessarily because they like what they find on the network.