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By creating an interactive magazine format populated by content from your Facebook and Twitter accounts, Flipboard has taken a solid step forward from what social media and aggregator tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite have been doing for some time — de-cluttering the social media space.
The company calls Flipboard the “world’s first social magazine” and says its mission is to “fundamentally improve how people discover, view and share content across their social networks”. The app was “inspired by the beauty and ease of print media” and designed and developed from the ground up for the iPad, making the most of the device’s quasi-print and digital feel.
“With over 1 billion messages posted every day, social networks are quickly becoming the primary way people discover and share content on the web. The result is a huge influx of incoming messages and links which people must sort through across multiple web sites just to stay up to date,” says Flipboard CEO Mike McCue on their website.
“We believe the timeless principles of print can make social media less noisy, more visually compelling and ultimately more mainstream,” says McCue.
What Flipboard essential does is display information from your Facebook and Twitter accounts in a simple and beautiful digital magazine format. This results in a reduction of clutter and noise, and makes it far easier for users to engage with their social networks by flipping through their latest stories, photos and updates from friends.
The app also renders links and images inside the magazine-type interface of the app, meaning users no longer have to scan through lists of posts and then click on link after link, as in the case of Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. The team at Flipboard have managed to turn what you would usually experience as a bland webpage into an interactive magazine format populated with your own social media info. At the moment, the app is currently limited to only working with Facebook and Twitter, but functionality to include RSS feeds is reportedly on the way.
Aside from info straight from a user’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, the app also lets users create sections around any topic. Users can choose from suggested Flipboard sections or create an entirely new section by searching via topic, person or Twitter list.
While the app is still young, the feedback seems to be overwhelmingly positive at this stage. The Wall Street Journal comments that one of the “outstanding things about Flipboard is its ability to take plain-text tweets or Facebook updates and turn them into visuals of a shared photo or web link in a status message.” The New York Times has called it an “entirely new way to imagine the social web”.
The popularity of the app has however led to some teething problems mainly around connection and log-in issues, prompting the company to mention in a tweet that they are investing in more servers to cope with demand.
Flipboard was founded by Mike McCue, former CEO of Tellme, and Evan Doll, former senior iPhone engineer at Apple, and the company has already made huge strides financially. The start-up has raised $10.5 million and is backed by investors such as Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) and Index Ventures. Other key investors include Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, The Chernin Group founded by Peter Chernin, Ron Conway, Alfred Lin, Peter Currie, Quincy Smith, as well as new media personality Ashton Kutcher.
Flipboard has also announced the acquisition of Ellerdale, the company that, according to their press release, developed “advanced semantic analysis of large, real-time data streams that enables Flipboard to extract, categorize and feature highly relevant and hot trending content from across a variety of social networks.” Flipboard also plans to retain Ellerdale’s engineering team which includes Arthur van Hoff. Hoff is a leading Silicon Valley technologist and played a major role in the creation of Java.
No details have yet been released on how Flipboard plans to generate revenue, as they are still very much focussed on launching and gaining traction. Experience suggests they will integrate an advertising model into the format and one can only hope that it doesn’t impact on the clean, attractive layout they have achieved.
On a cautionary note, the Wall Street Journal criticised the app for not caching content — like they do– which means that data has to be reloaded time after time and that the user always need to be in a wifi or 3g zone. None of these problems seeem insurmountable and judging by the buzz on Twitter and Google News, Flipboard is looking like that killer iPad app we’ve all been waiting for.