One of my earliest memories of the internet comes from elementary school where I remember seeing PointCast shown on our classroom computers. PointCast was a screensaver popular in the mid-90s that displayed news stories pulled in from over the internet. This hot Web 1.0 service died off in large part due to bandwidth limitations and the company’s inability to transition away from proprietary software and to the standardized Web.
Anyhow, I was reminded of PointCast when I checked out a new application called Chirpscreen that pulls content from Facebook and displays it in a Flash-based screensaver. Chirpscreen is basically PointCast but with personalized content (currently, only your friends’ photos and status updates, and your Facebook notifications).
The enthusiasm for PointCast may have waned because people realized how much better the web browser was for discovering news content online. Chirpscreen may succeed where PointCast failed in this respect, because the amount of online personalized content (i.e. content that relates directly to you or your friends/family members/etc.) is fairly limited, at least for now.
Chirpscreen plans on incorporating more content into the screensaver, such as your favorite RSS feeds and social graph info from other social networks (I’m sure they’re eagerly looking forward to the impending launch of MySpace’s developer platform). Chirpscreen will also be adding more interactivity and user controls that allow you to put more weight on the display of different types of content, as with the Facebook News Feed.
Chirpscreen is currently in private beta, but you can check out the program showcased as an application within Facebook here (warning: they’re still working out the bugs so it might crash your browser; it did for me a few times). If you want early access to the actual screensaver, submit your email to the invitation box on their website.
I’ve got to admit – I’m generally not very keen on Facebook applications, but I may just have to install Chirpscreen if the public beta works without hitches.