This article was published on June 24, 2013

Facebook developing social reader to rival Flipboard, year-long project includes input from Zuckerberg

Facebook developing social reader to rival Flipboard, year-long project includes input from Zuckerberg

Last week’s big Facebook media event was initially tipped to see a ‘Facebook Reader’ product launched, but instead it saw video introduced to Instagram.

However, there’s no smoke without fire and it seems that the company is indeed working on a Reader of its own, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The Journal cites a number of anonymous sources inside Facebook who reveal a Flipboard-like social reader is being developed to allow users to aggregate and read news stories from a range of sources. Michael Matas, a designer formerly with Apple and Nest, is said to be heading the product.

The Facebook Reader project has apparently been ongoing for a year and it has developed under the close gaze of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is said to have provided input and reviewed the design at various stages. That’s opposed to other launches which are considerably quicker, such as Snapchat-like Poke which was created and launched within the space of 12 days.

Yet, despite the project’s longevity, precise details are unclear.

The Journal says the service is “a product experience that works on both tablets and smartphones”, but it is not clear whether that means it will be a standalone app, like Flipboard, or a feature that is integrated into and optimized for tablets and smartphones.

The overall objective, unsurprisingly, is to draw users to Facebook and increase engagement. Apparently the team has spent time exploring distribution issues, such as how new content from Facebook is surfaced to users.

The Journal was unable to get a potential launch date for the project, and it even goes so far as to suggest that there’s a chance that Facebook Reader might never be launched. However, given the long-term efforts and involvement of Zuckerberg — not to mention Flipboard’s success and the impending end of Google Reader — we’d certainly expect a news service of sorts.

There’s also the fact that such a service would appeal to advertisers. Facebook’s recent revamp of Timeline shows it is trying to help users better organize things that are important to them, and it has never been shy of its intention for that to include broader news in addition to Facebook-based updates from friends and family.

Flipboard has received plaudits for its design and usability, which allows users to literally ‘flip’ the page to read news like a newspaper on their phone or tablet.

The service hit 50 million users in May, when it began allowing its users to create their own magazines on the service.

Headline image via KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images