Facebook experiments with changes to its layout and News Feed all the time, but this is pretty major: The social network confirmed to Mashable that it’s experimenting with adding extra news sections to the main mobile apps for iOS and Android, kind of like Facebook Paper. We already love Facebook Paper on iOS for having virtually no ads and letting you send and receive Facebook messages inside the app, instead of booting you out to the separate Facebook Messenger standalone app. Facebook definitely isn’t about to take the ads out of the main Facebook app, or add messages back in, so we hope that Facebook Paper sticks around even if these changes roll out to the main app.
In the new version of Facebook that Mashable saw, you can add sections such as World & US News, Sports, and Food to your profile, and then switch between them by swiping or tapping a bar along the bottom of the screen. All topics are turned on by default, but you can pare them down to just what you’re interested in. In the Paper app, this works about the same, dividing the interface into newspaper-like sections based on a topic, and you swipe between them. The top one is always your News Feed, and other topics include technology, parenting, pop culture, sports, and trending topics. In that app, you can pick the sections but not the news sources inside them, although you can tap on individual stories, ask to hide them, and then if you tap through a couple more screens you can eventually hide the entire source. Why this matters: With tools like Instant Articles and Live Video, Facebook is putting more emphasis on sharing news and current events, rather than just status updates about vacations and baby photos. Unlike news stories linked by your friends, that open into your web browser, stories in Facebook Paper and presumably this new Facebook layout open in the app, keeping you in Facebook’s own walled garden as long as possible. Facebook told Mashable that this is just a test, so users might see it or they might not, but the company hasn’t committed to rolling it out on a massive scale. If you think this kind of approach makes sense, Facebook Paper is worth checking out—it’s free in the App Store.