A few days ago Scoble posted a tweet saying that he had seen the Excel or Pagemaker for the iPad platform. It turns out that product is Flipboard, from Mike McCue, who I know from Netscape days. Mike went on to found Tellme which sold to Microsoft.
I haven't been able to use Flipboard yet, their servers are too busy, but from Scoble's video and their website, I think I understand what the product is.
Prior art: Pointcast, Netscape's initial RSS aggregator, Daylife (a NY company I have invested in).
If subscribes to your Twitter and Facebook feeds, grabs links to pictures and stories your friends point to, and presents them in a visually appealing way. Behind the scenes there's a lot of RSS (hence the connection to Netscape's RSS aggregator), but it's not a River of News, it's a "magazine style" reader. It is initially appealing, but I'm not sure whether it is useful over time. Scoble says he's been using it for hundreds of hours and still likes it. That's a point in their favor, Scoble really works this stuff.
Normally I wouldn't write a piece until I'd had a chance to use a product, but this time I want to put a question out there about the architecture and plumbing, and see what comes back.
With no disrespect, Flipboard is a scraper. It takes content flows that weren't intended for this kind of presentation and repurposes them. How could they do otherwise, it's a chicken-and-egg situation. Right now there is no content that is specifically designed for a Flipboard-like environment. But now that their product exists, it seems we have one half of the puzzle in place, why not put out a proposal to the content tools vendors (of which I happen to be one) and say this: If you want to produce content flows that look beautiful in our environment, here's how to do it. Let us either put hints in our source code for you, or create new renderings of our source code specifically to be viewed in the new environment.
I want to get this idea out there as soon as possible. Mike is a smart guy, and I'm sure he has hired some smart people. I don't doubt that they've thought of this. The question is -- have they done it?
And more broadly, there certainly are others working in this area. How can we all work together to boot up a great new level of reading and writing, on the iPad and elsewhere?
I want to be clear -- I'm on the authoring tools side of this. Aside from my small investment in Daylife, I have no stake in the reader side, at least not at this time.
For background, I explained this idea in a piece earlier this month.