RIP Paper, the ad-free Facebook News Feed app no one used but me

Facebook's last Creative Labs experiment is now gone, but I'll never forget it.

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I knew it was coming. The last time Facebook updated my favorite app, a little-used, under-the-radar gem called Paper, was in March. March of 2015. But the news today that Facebook has pulled Paper from the App Store still stings, because it was Facebook’s finest work.

If you never used Paper—and you certainly weren’t alone—think of the app as the most gorgeous version of your Facebook News Feed combined with all your favorite news outlets. At the top of your News Feed was a carousel where recently posted photos would cycle in and out, almost like a constantly changing version of your profile cover photo. Beneath the carousel were all the latest stories from your friends and family, but instead of scrolling down to view them, you would swipe through each story like a cascading series of cards. Photos were full-screen and had a parallax-like effect, so you could tilt your phone to view different parts of each image. The best part: The app was blissfully free of ads. No promoted posts, no brands encouraging me to buy things. Just posts from people I know, like the Facebook of old.

But Paper also had stories from news outlets organized by topic, so I could swipe between news headlines and recipes from my favorite cooking blogs without ever leaving Facebook. Paper is where Facebook’s fast-loading Instant Articles were born.

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Sad letter greeting Paper users when they open the app today.

The second-best part: You could send and respond to Facebook messages in Paper without installing Facebook Messenger.

But Paper languished. It was clear when it launched in early 2014 and even more crystal now that the app was just an experiment, a way for Facebook to try new things without angering the masses. There’s no way the company could redesign the main Facebook app to look like Paper without calls for a boycott. But the day it launched, it quickly became the only way I interacted with Facebook. It was a beautifully designed, and I dare say delightful, way to use what is often a headache. The News Feed has become a riot of ads and auto-playing videos fighting with political rants from high school friends and relatives.

I even deleted the big blue app from my iPhone altogether for awhile, until I had to reinstall it to test out new features that were clearly not ever coming to Paper. The app was dead long before Facebook finally killed it. The team that built Paper, an internal research and design group called Creative Labs, folded last December. Little bugs became more noticeable, like the lack of threaded replies in post comments and the inability to check into a location and tag a friend at the same time. Facebook didn’t even bother bringing its new reactions, 360-degree photos, or live video to Paper. I started having to use the main Facebook app more and more, cursing it all the while.

Now Facebook has confirmed a report from The Verge that Paper is done. I tried to open the app and was greeted with a sad goodbye letter from the Paper team—no one will be able to log in after July 29. My News Feed didn’t load. It’s officially the end.

I’ll never quit Facebook, but I’ll use it far less now. RIP, Paper.

This story, "RIP Paper, the ad-free Facebook News Feed app no one used but me" was originally published by Macworld.

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