SiliconFilter

Flipboard’s CEO Mike McCue: We’re Now on 10% of All iPads, No Android Version in the Works Yet

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During a conversation with Loic Le Meur at the annual LeWeb conference in Paris today, Flipboard‘s highly energetic founder and CEO Mike McCue talked about the origins of his company and why there is no Android version of Flipboard yet. The company’s CEO also noted that his app is already on about 10% of all iPads. With the launch of Flipboard’s iPhone app today, chances are it will be on quite a few iPhones soon as well.

During his presentations, McCue took some time to demo the new Flipboard iPhone app. He specifically focused on the one new feature the iPhone version introduced: Cover Stories. With this, users can easily get a quick overview of all the top stories around the categories they subscribe to.

Origins of Flipboard

McCue, who was at Netscape in the mid-90s, talked about how he watched the web evolve in the early years and how he wondered why the web never quite looked as well as print magazines. Then, as social media started to become popular and as the iPad arrived on the scene, his vision for a magazine-like view of the web became possible. Having raised $60 million so far, the company decided to bet on the tablet platform early. For now, though, McCue noted, the company doesn’t have significant revenue. Instead, Flipboard’s focus for now is on building great apps and expanding internationally.

Android?

Asked why Flipboard hasn’t launched on Android yet, McCue argued that there are simply not enough Android tablets yet. He also wants to ensure that his apps are as high-quality as possible, which, in his view, is only possible as long as the developers remain focused. He did, however, leave the possibility of an Android app open for the future. Development of the Android app hasn’t started yet, though.



11:09 am


Don’t Like the New Google Reader? Here Are Three Alternatives

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Once upon a time, Google Reader was just one of many RSS readers out there. Today, though, it can often feel as if Google Reader really is the only game in town when it comes to subscribing and reading news feeds. Today, Google launched the largest update to Google Reader in a long time. While it brings some new features (especially integration with Google+), it also does away with a number of useful tools that many users came to rely on in the past. Reader’s social features, for example, are now almost completely gone. You also can’t bundle a set of feeds and share them with friends anymore, just like you can’t share comments about stories with your friends in Google Reader.

Given all of these changes – and a new design that isn’t everybody’s cup of tea – here are three alternatives that are worth checking out. Most of them don’t recreate the social features that Google Reader used to have, though, but given that those aren’t coming back as Google is moving to Google+, now may just be the best time to switch to a new feed reader anyway.

Feedly

Given that you probably already manage all of your feeds in Google Reader, Feedly is a nice way to transition to a different style of feed reader. Feedly syncs with your Google Reader account, but uses a more magazine-style interface. The minimalist interface thankfully doesn’t put as much emphasis on whitespace as the new Google Reader, either. The service offers support for a plethora of social media services, but doesn’t include any built-in substitute for Google Reader’s social features.

Just in time for the launch of the new Google Reader, Feedly also just launched version 7 of its web service (there are also various mobile and tablet apps).

Go Desktop: FeedDemon (Win) and NetNewsWire(Mac)

Before Bloglines, Google Reader and numerous other web-based RSS readers, most of us relied on desktop apps to regularly ping and update our feeds. The idea of using a desktop app may sound odd in this day and age where everything is on the web, but there is still something to be said for a good desktop app that neatly integrates with the rest of your system.

netnewswire_text_logoQuite a few of the older readers are now unmaintained, as their developers have moved on, but for Mac users, NetNewsWire is still more than worth a look (though I can’t really recommend NetNewsWire 4 Lite, which is the only version that is in the Mac App Store) and for Windows users, FeedDemon is still the app to beat. Both of them are still under active development, sync with Google Reader and offer at least some support for social sharing features (NetNewsWire, for example, also support Instapaper).

Personally, I use a combination of Feedly and NetNewsWire as my main setup for reading feeds.

Host Your Own: Fever

fever_smallIf you want total control over your feed reader without using the desktop because you want the convenience of being able to access your feeds wherever you are, take a look at Fever. It’s one of the prettiest and most fully-featured self-hosted RSS readers out there today – but you do have to pay $30 for a license.

What makes Fever stand out is its speed (it can ping a lot of feeds and can do so pretty fast) and its built-in memetracking feature which ranks stories based on how often they are being talked about by other sources in your feeds. You can even put feeds you don’t normally read into a separate folder that you don’t read but that influences the Fever algorithm.



3:16 am


Google Places Hotpot Attacks Yelp and Co. with Openness

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Chances are that if you want to rate a local business, your first destination will be Yelp or a similar service. Google, however, has been steadily adding its own ratings services to its portfolio. The oddly named Google Hotpot – which is now deeply integrated into Google Places – is Google’s most direct Yelp competitor. Starting today, Google Places users will get better access to their rating there, as well as the ability to import any GeoRSS feed from other services like Foursquare to their Hotpot/Google Places profile. In addition, users can also grab a feed of their Google Places rating and import it elsewhere. While I can’t think of a service that actually could make good use of these feeds right now, chances are we will see other services that will allow users to import that data soon.

Given that GeoRSS feeds are tagged with GPS coordinates and not the actual name of the location, Google will, “as best as we’re able to determine,” present you with a place card for the business the lines up best with these coordinates.

Being able to import Foursquare data, for example, should make it easier for Places users to add more ratings to the system, which in turn, of course, also means the Google will have more ratings to add to its own product.

Smart Idea – But Will Users Bite?

It’s hard not to look at this and think that Google hopes to compete with Yelp and similar services by being more open and allowing more of its data to flow in and out of the system. This, to me, sounds like a smart plan, though given that the current setup involves copying and pasting the addresses of RSS feeds, I doubt that many mainstream users will make use of it. Mainstream users have famously ignored RSS feeds for years, so chances are few will use this import/export feature.



6:00 pm


Push 4.0: The Fastest iOS Push Notifications App Yet?

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All the way back in 2009, I reviewed the Notifications app for ReadWriteWeb and wondered if it was going to be the best push notifications service for the iPhone. At that time, it had more features than Boxcar, which was still in its infancy and is still its closest competitor today. Notifications was the first app of its kind to use PubSubHubbub to speed up notifications of updated news feeds. Over time, Boxcar ended up trumping Notifications in terms of features and the difference in speed became negligible. Now, however, Notifications is back as Push 4.0 for both the iPhone and iPad ($0.99 – iTunes link) and while its feature set hasn’t changed much from the early days (Twitter, email, RSS), the developer Fabien Penso has worked hard on making it the fastest push app out there – and, I’m happy to say, he succeeded.

To speed everything up, Penso now uses his own PubSubHubbub setup, as well as a custom fetcher and parser for feeds that aren’t real-time enabled yet. In addition, he delivers his pings to Apple himself, without using a middleman like Urban Airship.

Push 4.0 obviously doesn’t have support for the plethora of services that Boxcar currently offers. To me, that’s not really an issue, as I only use these kinds of services to get news updates from Twitter and RSS feeds. One feature that is missing – and that many users will likely want – is Facebook support. According to Penso, that’s high on his list and will likely make it into one of the next revisions of the app (maybe as early as the end of this week). Support for Foursquare updates is also coming soon.

The app does, however, feature all the other tools you would expect, including support for virtually every major Twitter app and the ability to reply to tweets right from within the app. Besides working on the app’s speed, Penso also redesigned the user interface from the ground up.

It’s worth noting that all of this come at a (small) price. When you buy the app, you only get support for email and Push’s own API. Support for every other service costs an additional $0.99 through an in-app purchase.

What matters most to me, however, is the speed of the app. For RSS feeds, it’s much faster than its competitors and Twitter messages and emails arrive almost instantly (you get a custom address to forward messages to that you want to be pushed).



9:35 am


NetNewsWire 4 Arrives in a (Very) Lite Version

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For a long time now, NetNewsWire has been setting the standard for feed readers on the Mac. The first version dates back to the middle of 2002 and the app has gone through three major revisions since. This week, NetNewsWire 4 Lite arrived in the Mac App Store. This free version (OS X 10.6.6, 64-bit only) will soon be followed by a more fully-featured paid version, which is a good thing, given that it does away with almost all of the features NetNewsWire 3 users have come to love over the last few years.

Lite on Features

As the name implies, the ‘lite’ version cuts back on features. There is no Google Reader syncing, for example, and no search functionality, no ability to star items, no tabs and no nested folders. Gone, too, are the multiple different views and ways to sort your subscriptions.

New Design

In return, you do get a new three-pane interface that is far more reminiscent of Reeder for Mac than NetNewsWire 3. It’s clean and very fast, but also infatuated with the use of white space. Because of this, whereas NetNewsWire 3 allowed you to skim around 40 headlines before you had to scroll further down, you only get to see about 10 in the new version.

It’s probably not fair to compare this new ‘lite’ version directly to the fully-featured NetNewsWire 3, but I’m not sure I like the direction the developers are going. Some people will surely love this new design, but I don’t think it makes for a better feed reading experience in the end.

To see for yourself, give the app a try. You can install it side-by-side with the old version.



11:25 am


Hate it When Blogs Only Give You Partial Feeds? FullTextRSSFeed.com to the Rescue

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Do you hate it when a blog only gives you a partial RSS feed and makes you click away from your feed reader to read the rest of a post? Well, starting today you can easily take matters in your own hand with FullTextRSSFeed.com. The site is as simple as it is effective: copy and paste the URL of the partial feed and out comes a new URL with a full feed.

The app simply scans the feed you give it for links and then grabs the full text. I’m not sure how, but I’m guessing something like Readability is involved here. It’s also easy to give it any other kind of feed with links. A feed from Hacker News’ frontpage, for example, returns the full-text view of all the articles currently linked to from there.

This worked very well for the majority of feeds we threw at it, though it choked on a few – most notably ones from the New York Times.

There are Yahoo Pipes and a few other similar tools like WIzard RSS that let you do this, but FullTextRSSFeed.com is the most effective and easiest to use tool in this category I’ve seen so far. Head over there and give it a try.



4:50 pm


5 Services that Deserved More Attention in 2010

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As the year draws to an end, it’s hard not to look back and think about all the cool apps that I looked at over the last 12 months. I’ll talk a bit about my favorite apps and biggest disappointments in other posts, but I also wanted to highlight some of the coolest apps and Web Services that I use all the time but that didn’t get a lot of mainstream (or even tech blog) coverage in the last year and that deserve another look.

Without further ado, here is my list for 2010:

My6Sense

my6sense logo

Building good recommendation engines is tough. In the world of reading recommendations for RSS feeds, nothing currently beats My6Sense. The app – available for iPhone and Android – also works as a straightforward RSS reader, but the real power is in its reading recommendations which learn from your behavior as you use the app (did you click on the story? Did you recommend it to others? How much time did you spend reading it?). The great thing about the app is that you don’t have to start over – you can just import all your Google Reader Over on ReadWriteWeb, we rated it as one of the top 10 RSS and syndication services of 2010, but overall, My6Sense has been flying under the radar for too long. Hopefully, with the addition of Louis Gray as the VP of marketing, My6Sense will get more visibility in 2011.

Producteev

producteev logo

Over the last year, I tested far more productivity and task management apps than I’m willing to admit, but the one that stood out for me – mostly thanks to its simplicity and ease of use – was Producteev. I currently use the service for my own task management needs, is large parts thanks to its integration with Google Apps, but also because of its full suite of other services, including its iPhone app, Gmail gadget and the ability to create tasks by simply sending an email to the right address. For the near future, Producteev also promises to release a Mac desktop app, which should make it a great choice for GTD disciples on the Mac.

Pearltrees

Pearltrees logo

“Curation” was the biggest buzzword of late 2010, yet while various Twitter-based services like Curated.by got a lot of buzz this year – and even link shortener Bit.ly now offers a curation feature – Paris-based Pearltrees remained relatively unknown. While the service now has plenty of money in the bank and has over 60,000 active users, its innovative interface and easy to use social curation features didn’t get near the buzz it deserved (though it’s worth noting that some people really don’t like the service’s interface). With even more social features and the ability to import all the links you share on Twitter, Pearltrees’ feature set made great strides this year. Hopefully, it’ll get a bit more buzz next year, as using it gets more fun the more people join in.

Microsoft Office Web Apps

Office Web Apps.jpg

I admit, this is an odd choice given the size of the Microsoft Office empire, but at least in the tech blogging world, most people tend to underestimate Microsoft’s products and prefer to push Google’s offering instead. In this case, the new Microsoft Office Web apps are far ahead of Google’s offerings and offer (no surprise) better compatibility and – and this is the biggest reason for me – better document fidelity. When I export a file to Google Docs, I never quite know what will happen to it when I export it again. With the Office Web Apps, the documents – with few exceptions – remain perfectly intact as I move them in and out of the Web apps.

EchoEcho

EchoEcho.jpg

With all the focus on check-in apps like FourSquare and Gowalla this year (though this hype has died down quite a bit by now), location apps with real utility remained a bit under the radar this year. Among those location-based apps that are actually useful (beyond collecting boy scout-style badges), EchoEcho is one of my perennial favorites. Available on virtually every platform, EchoEcho allows you to quickly and privately exchange your location with a contact. It’s simple, works and oh so useful. For more background, see my ReadWriteWeb review of the EchoEcho iPhone app from early 2010.



7:00 am