Flipboard is an iPad app that lets you create a “social magazine” from your Facebook and Twitter accounts and other Internet sources. It’s as close as I’ve seen to a “Daily Me,” the personalized news source that futurists have been predicting since the dawn of the Internet.
Flipboard creates an appealing and intuitive interface for your content. Using the magazine metaphor, you flip through the “pages” like you would a printed magazine. The gestures you use to navigate are intuitive. The layout is created on the fly, grouping common items by time of posting. It works equally well in portrait or landscape mode.
In many ways, the interface is better than that presented by Twitter or Facebook, because Flipboard resolves external links and provides threaded abstracts of linked articles. The accompanying context and pictures create a richer user experience. If you want to read an entire article, you get passed to the referring website.
Flipboard isn’t for everyone. You’ll get more detailed information, better thread context, faster updating and other benefits by using a normal web interface or a dedicated Twitter application like TweetDeck. It’s not the ideal environment for content creation. But for people who just want to enjoy social media for personal use – the middle 80 percent – Flipboard is more intuitive, prettier, and better displays visual resources than more traditional alternatives.
Some more notes on Flipboard:
Design is everything/design is dead. Flipboard creates beautiful layouts, no matter the source content. So the design that’s baked into the app is quite good. But, significantly, Flipboard strips the markup from any referring content and renders it in a uniform way. It’s also happy to deliver into horizontal or vertical formats. When other devices appear, no doubt Flipboard will accommodate those as well. Just like reading blogs via RSS, design in this environment is less important. What matters is the content.
Flipboard epitomizes the Splinternet. The “splinternet,” as conceived by Josh Bernoff, is the end of the universal web experience. With Flipboard, you create your own magazine. Further, content developers for Flipboard can only reach iPad users. This is niche technology, serving even narrower interests. But this “verticality” can also be a strength or a point of distinction for publishers who want to reach targeted audiences.
Roll your own “magazine.” Flipboard makes heavy use of Twitter lists. So if you wanted to curate content in a particular area – say, eco-friendly clothing – it would be a simple matter to create a Twitter list, find those accounts in the content area, fine-tune and publish. Because it is feed-oriented, it can accept a wide range of published content. Because the design is baked in, you can simply focus on the content. (though I would love to see its interface opened up to allow themes or skins). The missing piece? A means to monetize it. But I would guess that is forthcoming …
Here’s a longer interview with Mike McCue, co-founder and CEO of Flipboard: