The Instagram of News Is Here, And It’s Way Smarter Than You Think
Last week, Apple announced News, an algorithmically curated news recommendation app, which has been territory well-explored to middling success by services like Flipboard and Zite. As usual, developers and reporters cheered the arrival of a new Apple offering, but there was at least one person bored by the new product. Trond Werner Hansen, the veteran browser developer who helped redesign both Opera and Firefox, thought News was stupid.
“Look at how people use Spotify: you start using it, and you don’t stop,” says Hansen. “But is anyone doing that with Flipboard? No, because no one really wants to read news on a closed publishing platform like Flipboard, Apple News, or Facebook Instant Articles, let alone just read the things an algorithm tells them to read. It’s bullshit.”
Hansen’s got an alternative. He’s launched Kite, a new app that is a social network for sharing Internet articles with your followers, much the same way Instagram is a social network for sharing your photos. But look closer, and you’ll see that Kite is more than “just” a social network for reading: it’s actually a beautiful, full-featured web browser, which substitutes a social graph for the URL bar.
A Social Network For What On The Web To Read Next
When you first load up Kite, it looks like any other social network. You’re dumped into a stream of updates from people you follow, each one linking a story or webpage they think is worth sharing. Right now, the first three stories in my feed are an Economist piece on the Greek Euro crisis, an article on Ben Carson’s bizarro presidential campaign, and a story with the provocative headline: “Interviews With Four Small-Penis Havers.”
I can like these articles, save them to my reading list for later (the equivalent of favoriting them), comment, or share. There are even a few fun little tweaks there—for example, the “Like” button in Kite is an emoji, which you choose whenever you share an article. But in the end, it’s all about getting recommendations on what to read from those you actually care about.
“People don’t want an algorithm telling them what to read, they want to get a peek at the reading lists of people they find interesting,” Hansen claims. “We’ve had algorithms that can tell you what to read for 20 years. No one’s interested. I want to know what interesting people like President Obama and Stephen Fry are reading every day. Right now, that’s not really possible—there’s nothing dedicated to that. I want Kite to be able to unlock that value.”
If you’d like to try Kite, you can download it from the App Store here. When you sign up, it will ask you to enter a “recommender” to start piecing together your network. Tell ’em “drcrypt” sent ya, and maybe, we can make this app happen together.