Facebook is testing a new stand-alone mobile news application, Business Insider reported Aug. 11.
The product is reportedly part of the Facebook for Business initiative (not to be confused with the Facebook for Work initiative announced late last year).
Facebook has declined to comment regarding the app, but BI was able to discuss the app and view screenshots taken by an alpha tester. According to that source, Facebook chose only a few companies to pilot the app.
While the app is in such an early stage of development that it may change substantially before it becomes widely available, it appears it will work as follows:
Users will download the new app and choose “partnering publications” and/or topics called “stations” or “substations” that they’d like to follow.
Those partnering publications will be able to create mobile notifications when there is breaking news. Alerts will be limited to 100 characters of text, not including a link to the publication’s website.
Notification blasts will be sent instantly, as fast as a tweet. Users can then click on the link and read the full article on the publication’s website.
The app is widely being discussed as an attempt to move in on Twitter’s territory. Twitter began testing a breaking news tab in its app just last week.
Not everyone, of course, is excited at the prospect of another app that seemingly offers no new functionality when compared to existing news apps. WhaTech conducted a survey this year and found that between 80-90% of apps downloaded to devices are opened only once before being uninstalled.
In an article for Consumerist dryly titled “Just What You Need: Yet Another Stand-Alone Single-Purpose Facebook App,” Kate Cox wrote, “Because Hello, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Groups, and of course Facebook itself aren’t clogging up your phone enough already, the big blue social juggernaut has an idea for one more app to add to the pantheon.”