The stealthy Kleiner Perkins-backed startup called Flipboard has now been revealed to be, as some suspected, a social application for the iPad. The new Flipboard iPad app bills itself as a “social magazine” – that is, one which aggregates status updates, tweets, photos and articles from those you’re connected to on social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook. These updates are beautifully laid out into an easily digestible view which you can flip through with your fingers.
But Flipboard isn’t just another “Twitter magazine,” – it also just acquired semantic technology startup Ellerdale, whose intelligent data-parsing algorithms have previously been used to create a real-time search engine and trends tracker (still available here, at least for the moment). Now that same powerful technology will be used to design a more personalized real-time experience: determining what social updates are important to you and presenting them in an attractive, magazine-like format.
Flipboard Revealed: Social Networking Updates Become a Magazine
In May, rumors of an under-the-radar startup called Flipboard surfaced, when sources reported it had raised funding from the well-known firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Now the company is confirming these rumors, with news of a $10.5 million Series A venture capital round. It also has other key backers like Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Dustin Moskovitz. Oh, and Ashton Kutcher’s interested, so there you go.
If the investors’ confidence doesn’t convince you of the app’s potential, though, perhaps its back-end will. Although not available in this initial version, Flipboard will soon integrate the semantic data-analysis technology from the startup Ellerdale into its application in order to app better determine the relevance of the information and updates from your various social networking connections. Ellerdale is already an expert at this, after practicing the art of semantic analysis on Twitter’s “firehose” of data.
Flipboard: This Magazine was Built for You
So many people are overwhelmed by the fast-flowing information on the real-time Web, not to mention the massive amounts of raw data which include everything from 140-character tweets to new photo uploads from family and friends on Facebook. Take a day or two off from the Web, and it seems like you’ve missed everything.
Catching up on all these updates is difficult, too, given the ephemeral nature of Twitter’s stream and Facebook’s constantly updated News Feed. Flipboard proposes a better way to follow your friends: turn social networking updates into a personalized magazine.
How the Mag Works
Within the new Flipboard app, there’s a homepage of sorts created using photos from your social networking friends, a content page and then personalized sections which you create. For now, you can have up to nine different sections, which can focus on any topic – whether that’s fashion or motorcycles – or even Twitter lists, if that’s your desire.
Within the “magazine’s” pages are status updates, photos and even articles based on the links your friends have been sharing. The articles are presented in clean, clutter-free views without surrounding ads and other design flourishes implemented by the publisher. However, for copyright reasons, the articles won’t be full-text – only abstracts. You’ll have to click through (or rather, tap through) to read the full article using the included in-app Web browser.
Although Flipboard isn’t meant to function as a full Facebook or Twitter client, the basic interactions are supported – liking, replying, re-tweeting, etc.
Best of all, perhaps, is the app’s cost: FREE. Unlike the Twitter mag competitor Tabloids (iTunes link), for example, a $2.99 iPad app, Flipboard will remain free, generating revenue through in-app ads – full page ones, no less – where revenues are split with the publisher. Future iterations may even include full article text, not abstracts, for those publishers which ink deals with the company. So yes, in the future, you could launch Flipboard to read your daily newspaper thanks to a syndication of NYT’s Twitter feed, for example.
Also in the future, additional networks will be supported, like Flickr, Tumblr, Posterous and others, although there are no plans for direct RSS support. You can follow most sites on Twitter and Facebook, Ellerdale’s Arthur van Hoff tells us. (Incidentally, his LinkedIn resume reveals his title to be Level III Grand Master of Alphabetical Order at Ellerdale, which we think is fabulous).
Although Ellerdale’s influence isn’t present in the launch edition of Flipboard, its inclusion is forthcoming. And given our previous review of Ellerdale’s prospects, a service we once called “tantalizing” for the data-hounds out there, we can’t wait to see it put to a more practical purpose: discovering the trends and relevance within our own content.
You can download the Flipboard iPad app here from iTunes.