Facebook’s Paper marks the social network’s 10th anniversary

Facebook is celebrating its 10th anniversary with the launch of a new app. But those who see it as a Flipboard killer misunderstand the New Normal.

Today is Facebook’s 10th birthday. It seems incredible that the service has been around for a decade, but it has. I’ve been on there about seven years – and only people who were in the US education system a decade ago are likely to have been on there longer.

It’s interesting timing, because Facebook have just launched their latest stand-alone app – Paper – which is currently only available on iPhone, and then only within the US (although there are ways around that):

Some people have suggested that this might kill Flipboard and other aggregational magazine style apps.

There was once a time that startups were regularly shoved out of the way by the big companies. I think it’s fair to say that Microsoft expected to just walk in and take over the smartphone market again after the iPhone changed it completely. As little as four years ago, some analysts were still predicting that it would win first or second place. This, after all, was history. When the big corporates cloned your thing, you were in trouble. Nowadays, Microsoft is working hard just to staying distant third place.

Indeed, big companies just sweeping in, cloning a compeitor and driving it out of business doesn’t seem to happen so much any more. Big media is bad at it. Tech is bad at it. Facebook is bad at it.

The launch of Facebook Paper has led some to predict the death of Flipboard. But we’ve seen Facebook do similar efforts in the past. Facebook Poke was a SnapChat competitor launched after Facebook failed to buy the upstart – and now it’s being dismissed as a joke. It’s not been updated since it was launched over a year ago. Facebook Camera – its quasi-Instagram competitor (launched around the time it bought the other service) has done slightly better in terms of updates – but no better in terms of uptake.

The one that has managed to get some traction was Messenger – but it’s not been enough to supplant WhatsApp or even seriously challenge native services like Apple’s iMessage.

Early reviews of the Paper app – which is not yet available in Europe – have been largely positive. I’m sure it’ll be a great experience, and my come to replace the main Facebook app for many people. But I’m also pretty sure it won’t replace Flipboard, which has a range of other sources and uses that make it a compelling proposition in its own right.

It seems to be a condition of the New Normal that the big guys no longer have it all their own way. Microsoft no longer launches their own version of something and displaces the incumbent. Instead, they’re buying services like Yammer and Skype and replacing their own offerings with them. Facebook, for all its power and strength, can’t just slap agile competitors down with a “me too” product.

Just being incumbent no longer gives you a compelling advantage,which switching to something new is as easy and downloading an app from an app store. And that’s why the New Normal is so challenging for big companies – even those only a decade old.