It seems so long ago that the term RSS was sexy and I was analyzing the Feed Reader landscape for an article I contributed to TechCrunch. That was four years ago, before Facebook and Twitter were prominent and before the iPhone or iPad were even around. That little article ended up being very popular and the knowledge came in handy in my eventual role with AOL helping to develop strategy for their personalized startpage product, myAOL. Since then, Twitter and Facebook have taken much of the attention away from startpages and traditional feed readers. Today, mobile apps for the iPhone, Android and iPad have replaced the frenzy that was once associated with startpage widgets. But yesterday, the social feed reading world saw a revolutionary product emerge as we were introduced to what I consider the best mobile feed reading experience I have seen yet - Flipboard.
Simply put, Flipboard helps convert social feeds into a social, digital magazine – converting the river of news into a digital magazine layout. Flipboard examines your Facebook, Twitter, Twitter Lists and other social feed sources and turns them into a beautiful digital display. Every user has a different view of their feeds since everyone has different social connections that play a part in the view. Flipboard currently puts items in chronological order. But soon, Flipboard looks to rank content from around the Web. It seems that Flipboard is not only pulling out social feeds but going a step further by crawling and scraping the sites that links refer to and then indexing them so that the display has some additional information around it. In most cases it works out great, but in some case I saw some of my personal feeds displaying the same image over and over again as Flipboard seemed to go after the biggest image on a site and associate it with the connect (which happened to be an ad banner). This needs to be fine-tuned but we’ll give Flipboard a break since it is only a day old.
Aside from some minor glitches with signing into the service today (due to high traffic from all the buzz), Flipboard is the iPad application I have been looking for since the iPad launched a few months ago. I envisioned it was only a matter of time before something like it came to the iPad. For example, I have been using paper.li which creates a personalized newspaper from your Twitter feed and others to aggregate my social feeds online. But paper.li does not have a slick mobile app or display or elegant interactions with the content. Flipboard seems to do this aggregation on the fly the first time and then index it, offering a rich experience of what used to be a very text heavy, list reading experience. Within this new experience users can interact with content, allowing them to share, retweet and favorite items directly from your Twitter account thus making it an integrated Twitter application as well. This application may very well be enough to keep me from using Twitter on the iPad, as long as it proves to keep up with the real time web.
Flipboard has bundled content by topic and offers default “flipboards” for tech, style, photos, business, news, design and so on, like many Web startpages and feed readers have been doing for quite sometime. In doing so, it always leads to the question of curation and how do publishers like TECH cocktail get into the tech bundle? In my experience, it’s typically about who you know – we could not find a “suggest a feed” or “submit your site” call to action on the product or the Flipboard website.
Flipboard is the brainchild of Mike McCue a Palo Alto, California based, successful entrepreneur who has sold a few different companies – his first company which created a 3D browser to Netscape and his second, Tellme, to Microsoft for $800 Million. Check out the exclusive video interview by Robert Scoble with Flipboard CEO Mike McCue. Then go download the application and flip, to your hearts delight.
Why is Flipboard important to us all as social feed consumers and as entrepreneurs? Flipboard has set the bar and now all other applications that leverage feeds will most likely have to start to adopt similar technologies and design or be left in the digital innovation dust. I expect to see similar rich interfaces emerge for my email inbox on my iPad as well. Let us know what you think about Flipboard in the comments section below. Is it a game changer like we think it is?