The essence of Flipboard is well-captured in the headline of the press-release when it was launched in July 2010:
Inspired by the beauty of print and designed for iPad, Flipboard transforms the social media experience
With many rave reviews when it came out, Flipboard was chosen by Apple as the best iPad app of 2010, and selected by Time magazine as one of the top 50 inventions of 2010 (along with the iPad). Much of the commentary on Flipboard has focused on its transformative effect on Twitter, and that’s what I’ll focus on in this article.
Flipboard: “Twitter Cleaner-Upper”
As @alex says in an early review, Flipboard takes the raw, text-based Twitter stream, filters out the chatty, “what I had for breakfast” tweets, and presents the user with an elegant, graphic screen of news and articles that are linked in tweets. On the same theme, Mark Wilson calls Flipboard the Twitter cleaner-upper, because it “transforms any confusing stream of Twitter … posts into a dynamically generated digital newspaper.”
The shrunken screen shot at left has my tweets as they appear in Twitter on top, and the corresponding tweets in Flipboard below (click image for large view). The headlines and the text in the Flipboard entries are from the articles themselves — When one of these is clicked, the whole article appears. The tweet also appears at the bottom of the screen, from where it can be retweeted or replied to.
I should mention that most of my tweets contain links, as do all the ones in the screenshot, so this doesn’t show Flipboard’s filtering out of non-linking tweets, which, as the reviewers above emphasize, is one of its best features.
Before Flipboard, Twitter Lists never really took off — With Twitter, exploring a new List can be fairly imposing, especially because of the raw, unfiltered chatty tweets of many unknown Twitter users. In Flipboard, though, Twitter Lists come into their own — By turning the raw Twitter feed into a graphic, filtered screen of newsworthy articles, Flipboard makes it much faster to explore a new List to see if it’s worth reading.
The Elegance of the Experience: “A Ballet-Like Flow”
The screenshot and brief description above give only a rough idea of how transforming Flipboard is. It’s hard to convey in words what makes it so appealing — I suspect it’s that it does such a good job of capturing the touchy-feely, animated potential of the iPad. Without a doubt, this makes it fun to use, but it also makes it a much faster and more efficient way to browse through tweets than can be done in Twitter and other non-graphic clients.
One of the specific parts of Flipboard that shines is the smooth, fluid “sliding panel” transition that pulls the reader from the initial, abbreviated view of an article into the full view. The sliding panels metaphor is more fully implemented in the Twitter iPad app, but I like the fluid sliding effect in Flipboard better.
PC Magazine reviewer Jill Duffy’s poetic words are the best description I’ve found of the Flipboard feel:
A Ballet-Like Flow, Flipping, Scanning, Touching … Graceful with Rhythm
Is this enough to convey the idea? — Get your hands on an iPad, and let your fingers experience Flipboard!
Flipboard & Twitter – “This is the Next Step”
Another quote from @alex about the Flipboard-Twitter effect:
I truly believe that anyone who finds … Twitter to be dull, or unusable, will find [it] to be 100% more engaging on Flipboard. This is the next step.
Steve Jobs felt similarly — As reported by Robert Scoble, he wasn’t a big fan of Twitter, but he loved Flipboard.
I shy away from the term “killer app,” but it’s hard to avoid with Flipboard — I’ve had an iPad for three months. I thought when I got it that I’d spend much time exploring all the great apps I’ve long been reading about. But instead, I’ve spent most of my iPad time on (free!) Flipboard – By itself, it justifies the price of the iPad — Is that a killer app?
About the title of this article — As I was writing, and thinking about a title, I tweeted this phrase I came across in another article: “FlipBoard & iPad were a Match Made in Heaven.” I was flattered when Flipboard CEO and Co-inventor Mike McCue (@mmccue) favorited the tweet — Aha! — There was my title!
Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter@ericrumsey