Update: Now available

Facebook has made many changes to its newsfeed over the years (each usually generating howls of protest on launch and then viewed as business as usual within a week or two), but the interface on web and iOS app alike has seen only minor tweaks. Popup photos aside, it’s essentially remained a clean but uninspiring scrolling layout.

All this is set to change with the launch of Paper, a new iOS-only app set to launch in the U.S. on 3rd February.

Paper makes storytelling more beautiful with an immersive design and fullscreen, distraction-free layouts. We’ve also made it easier to craft and share beautiful stories of your own …

From the video and microsite demos at least, it appears to be a very slick, appealing and easy to use app, with full-screen photos and videos, Flipboard-style sliding tiles of posts and live previews of your own posts.

  • Everything responds to your touch so you can pick up or thumb through stories with simple, natural movements
  • You can tilt your phone to explore high-resolution panoramic photos from corner to corner, and see faces and other important details up close
  • Fullscreen autoplay videos come to life and bring you deep into the action
  • Beautifully detailed covers make it easy to spot articles from trusted publishers and decide what to read or watch.· Articles unfold in the app and appear fullscreen for a focused reading experience
  • When you’re ready to tell your own story, you know exactly what your post or photo will look like because you see a live preview before you share it

What will be more interesting to see is whether the app will enable Facebook to succeed in its aim of acting as an aggregator of published content. Choose a theme like technology, and get to see the stories being shared by those beyond just your own Facebook friends, and hand-selected by Facebook editors.

Your Paper is made of stories and themed sections, so you can follow your favorite interests. The first section in Paper is your Facebook News Feed, where you’ll enjoy inspiring new designs for photos, videos, and longer written posts. You can customize Paper with a choice of more than a dozen other sections about various themes and topics—from photography and sports to food, science and design. Each section includes a rich mix of content from emerging voices and well-known publications.

Facebook users have historically been resistant to third-party content in their newsfeeds, both advertising and editorial. Facebook is clearly hoping that giving users the ability to choose their own themes, and turning it into a more beautiful experience, will prove the key to changing our minds.

Interestingly, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says that the company plans to launch a range of different apps, rather than trying to cram all the functionality into one. In a Bloomberg interview that’s well worth reading, Zuckerberg says that a recent three-day hackathon generated plenty of ideas.

Zuckerberg says about 40 ideas emerged from the event. While he won’t share them, he says as many as half a dozen could be introduced this year under the Creative Labs umbrella and suggests one could be tailored for Facebook Groups, an often overlooked feature of the social network that allows clusters of members to communicate privately.

The Paper app should be available from iTunes on 3rd February for U.S. users. There is as yet no word on when it will roll out to other countries.