Flipboard launches iPad app to adulation, rush of users

The new app presents social media streams in a form resembling a magazine

Flipboard, a new iPad application that presents the news links in a user's Twitter and Facebook media streams in the style of a magazine, launched to immediate adulation on Wednesday but the rush of users meant a few glitches for early adopters.

The app, which is free, attempts to help people make sense of the huge amount of news content that is now shared through social media networks and links directly into a user's Twitter and Facebook feeds. It also contains several channels programmed by the company containing tech news, culture, music and other subjects.

Click on a channel and articles are presented as they might look in a magazine, with headlines and a few paragraphs of the story next to a picture. Clicking on any part of a story opens up a page with the entire article. If nothing on the page is of interest then a swipe across the screen will flip the page to the next screen.

By inputting a Twitter or Facebook stream into the application, the user automatically gets previews of the stories being passed around by their friends and sources and so doesn't have to rely on a subject line or URL to make a decision on whether to open a link.

"We believe the timeless principles of print can make social media less noisy, more visually compelling and ultimately more mainstream," said Mike McCue, Flipboard’s CEO, in a statement.

The app became available as Wednesday began on the U.S. east coast but the company's servers appeared to quickly run over capacity.

"Flipboard is currently over capacity. Please try adding your Twitter account later," read the error message displayed when users tried to connect.

The pre-programmed channels loaded without problem.

Users appeared to take the teething troubles in stride and the vast majority of messages on Twitter praised the application and its layout. Flipboard said it was working to eliminate the problems.

"We're all here working on opening the next wave of Flipboard accounts," said Marci McCue, a spokeswoman for Flipboard. "We are deploying more boxes as we speak."

"Reaction so far has been really great. People have been commenting that this is a reason to buy an iPad, a 'game-changing' iPad app, that it's beautiful, and that it's a revolutionary experience," she said. "We are really enjoying the comments and watching people start to use it."

Flipboard comes from a Palo Alto-based start-up of the same name that was formed by Mike McCue, former CEO of Tellme, and Evan Doll, and a former senior iPhone engineer at Apple. Backers of the company include Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and a number of venture investors, which have together backed the company with US$10.5 million.

As it launched the app, the company said it had acquired Ellerdale, a company that offers live analysis of the social Web.

Ellerdale has indexed over 6 billion messages since it was founded in 2008 and its technology will form the base of the relevancy engine in the next release of Flipboard, the company said in a statement.

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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