Facebook said to be prepping Twitter-like news app for mobile

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Facebook wants to get deeper into the news business. The company reportedly plans to roll out a separate news app that lets users curate their own feed of breaking news items from partner sources. Business Insider, which broke the story, describes the new app as "Twitter-like."

To start, a user downloads the new app and chooses the participating publications and news topics to follow, according to BI. Presumably topics will include everything from Supreme Court rulings to the latest Jets player to get punched in the face.

When breaking news hits, partner publications can blast out notifications that are limited to 100 characters and a link to the news story on their site. Notifications will hit all users who elect to receive them based on their personalized settings. This is the part that is most Twitter-like, because tweets are limited to 140 characters and are largely text-oriented even in this age of multi-media Twitter streams.

Facebook is already experimenting with news through its Instant Articles program that lets users of the Facebook for iOS app access a more responsive version of articles from partners such as The New York Times, BuzzFeed, National Geographic, NBC and The Atlantic.

The impact on you at home: Business Insider didn’t have any details on when this app might launch or on which platforms. The unnamed service, which BI says includes a back-end for publishers as well as a mobile app for users, is currently in alpha mode. Given Facebook’s history, once it is ready the news app would most likely be an iOS exclusive at first. Then if it proves successful, it will roll out to other platforms such as Android.

Is it Twitter, or Flipboard?

Based on BI’s take, the purported app sounds more like a version of Flipboard than Twitter, or even a more news-focused version of Facebook’s own Paper for iOS.

But that Flipboard association assumes this is going to be a news-reading app, which it may not be. Each notification, for example, includes a link to the story on the originating news site. So perhaps all the app will offer is a Twitter-like stream of posts that included a limited amount of text, maybe an image, and a link to each news story.

If that’s the case, why not build this feature into Facebook’s primary mobile apps, the way Instant Articles are? Facebook may feel the feature would be largely ignored if it were put there. To get any traction, Facebook would probably have to launch the feature with the ability to opt-out—an approach that has proven contentious for Facebook in the past due to privacy concerns.

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