Facebook is cooking up its own socially-enabled Flipboard alternative in the hope of filling the gap left by Google’s near-death Reader, it’s reported, aggregating news and other content both from publishers and shared by friends. The app, internally known as Facebook Reader, is said to strongly resemble existing cross-platform digital magazine Flipboard the WSJ‘s sources say, with development initially focusing on versions for iPhone and iPad.
According to the leaks, Facebook Reader has taken a surprisingly lengthy route to formation, with the app’s creation said to be purposefully “slow and deliberate.” More than a year in the making, it currently pulls in not only news stories from online publishing sources, but intersperses them with content that a Facebook user’s friends have shared, it’s said, making for a more personalized reading experience. Leading the development team is ex-Apple and ex-Nest Labs designer Michael Matas, it’s claimed, who joined Facebook in mid-2011.
The goal, sources close to Facebook’s plans claim, is to increase the amount and quality of the time users spend on the social network, particularly when mobile. Facebook’s mobile user-rate grew faster than the company initially expected it to, but it has struggled to monetize that attention.
Meanwhile, an insider claims, the current pattern of mobile Facebook use is scattershot, with users spending only a few minutes at a time – albeit on a regular basis – checking the app. Facebook Reader is an attempt to extend that engagement, it’s suggested, with systems that automatically highlight trending public posts among other things.
The project, if it reaches the market, will pit Facebook against some established players in the newsreader segment. Flipboard is the most obvious competitor, of course, already offering a combination of general news feeds and content culled from the reader’s Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ friends (if they sign in to one or more of the services within the app); however, there’s also Pulse and various other mobile news apps, including manufacturer preloads such as HTC BlinkFeed which debuted on the HTC One.
Facebook’s handiwork has been rumored before, and in fact there were suggestions that the so-called Google Reader replacement would debut at the company’s event last week. Instead, Facebook took on another existing segment with an alternative of its own, in the shape of Instagram Video.