If you look through the App Store reviews for Facebook Paper, it doesn’t take long to find the recurring theme.
“So much better than the main Facebook app,” one user wrote.
“It is light years ahead of the standard Facebook app and everyone that can should delete the native app and use this one,” wrote another.
A third user was blunt: “Facebook should strongly consider making Paper its official iOS app instead of the awful main app.”
With Paper, Facebook has effectively rebooted its core News Feed product on the iPhone. Although Paper is built largely around the same photos and status updates you get from Facebook’s main app, it doesn’t feel like something that was merely retrofitted to the phone. It emphasizes large photos and swipe gestures, and lets you add general news sections for when you need a break from your friends. It could easily stand in for the main Facebook experience, even if it doesn’t have all the same features.
Facebook isn’t alone. Last week, Google announced Inbox, which is built around Gmail but with a different approach to displaying and handling messages. Instead of showing every email in reverse-chronological order, Inbox intelligently sorts messages into groups like “Travel” and “Purchases,” and in a nod to Dropbox’s Mailbox, lets you snooze or pin important emails for later.
On October 1, Microsoft revealed Sway, a modern take on presentations with an emphasis on style and ease of use. Whereas PowerPoint makes you obsess over every line and transition, Sway does all the heavy lifting automatically, and it’s designed to be just usable on phones as it is in a web browser.
While I hate to pull the old “three is a trend” journalist hat trick, it seems like more than a coincidence when Google, Facebook, and Microsoft reinvent core apps in such close proximity. And when you look closer at the motivations and goals of each project, there’s more than just a little overlap.