Paper is a tasty dish, but...

... you have no say on the food.

by Dirk Moeller

Paper is looking good and gives you a whole new Facebook experience on your phone.

That is, simply put, the only thing it does. Comparisons with Flipboard appear to be valid at first, because they look very much alike. But then again, you can configure Flipboard with sources of your own choice - not so much in Paper.

You choose what section you are interested in, but you have no control over who appears in that section and in what order. I reckon that is going to be decided by who pays the highest amount. Let's hope that Fox News or any Murdoch publication isn't interested.

"Ok", I hear you say, "I know that and take that with a grain of salt, but what about my Facebook Stream?". Why, thank you for asking ;)

We (hopefully) all know that Facebook isn't showing you everything what your friends are posting. They have algorithms in place that decided what you should see based on how and with whom you interacted in the past. If you have no idea what I am talking about, watch this video: 

Now there's also the matter of how Facebook shows you the "most interesting" posts by default, which is often older stuff instead of everything most recent. You can easily avoid that by using the following URL instead of the standard Facebook URL:

https://www.facebook.com/?sk=h_chr

This always lets you start with "most recent" instead of "most interesting".

Based on these facts, I asked myself "Now, what will Paper show me in my stream?".

To find out, I opened the following five different views at the same time:

  • Desktop "recent"
  • App "recent"
  • Desktop "most interesting"
  • App "most interesting"
  • Paper

I noted the order of the first 20 posts in every view, put them in a table and assigned a distinct colour to every post that appears in more than one view. Posts that only appeared in one view are white. 

Squint your eyes to see the pattern ;)

Squint your eyes to see the pattern ;)

Here's what I found:

  • "Desktop recent" and "App recent" are quite similar, if a bit disjunct. It looks like there's a timing issue with the app a bit lagging - although the first post was identical.
  • "Desktop most interesting" shows post that comprised of all the other views - seems quite a good mix.
  • "App most interesting" is quite a way off in the first couple of posts, but then delivers an ok mix - annoying if you think that the first ones are the most important ones.
  • Paper delivers a complete new mix. As you can see by the darker colours, those are mostly taken out of the "most interesting" pool, but the pattern isn't comparable to either Desktop or App.

 

This is, of course, a completely unscientific approach, but again it proves one thing: you only see what Facebook wants you to see.

The shiny new surface is neat, but the complete lack of control is a possible new way Facebook is headed to and it makes sense: This way you control the delivery of content far better, which means you can make money off it.  

So, is this shiny apple just a poisoned, a distraction to sell us on less control over our stream?

We will see how it develops.