We first wrote about Ginx last month when it was revealed that parent company Peer News had raised $2 million in funding. At the time, we could only infer its purpose from Omidyar’s twitter account, which was hooked into Ginx somehow.
Now we know that it’s basically an interface for Twitter on steroids. Ching explains that the most fundamental purpose behind Ginx is to help people share news and other content over the internet. Citing the figure that 20% of all tweets contain links, Ching says that Ginx was built to make better use of them, to encourage more sharing of links, and to connect people who didn’t know each other already along the way.
Functionally, Ginx is a replacement for the experience of using Twitter at Twitter.com. The small development team behind Ginx has used Twitter’s API to rebuild virtually all of the functionality found at Twitter.com. And then it has gone a few steps further to make sharing links easier and more powerful.
For example, when you look at tweets in Ginx, you don’t see TinyURLs that obfuscate their destinations. Rather, Ginx pulls out the original URL and displays it alongside the webpage’s title and an image from the page, if available. You can also click a tab to view only tweets that contain links, or only tweets that contain links that you have visited previously (for when you want to go back to something you once came across on Twitter).
When you click on a link, it takes you to the page but leaves a bar at the top with the Twitter username and avatar of the person who shared it with you. A box lets you enter a reply to that person, retweet their message, send a direct message to the person about the page, or create a brand new tweet with the link. This is intended to make it easier for people to respond to the content they’ve found on Twitter.
Back in the Ginx interface, the service tries to keep track of what people are saying about a particular link, even when they’re not in your follow list. Just click on the conversation link below a shared link and you’ll see a thread of messages pertaining to it, from anyone who uses Ginx (in this way it’s like FriendFeed but the replies are not restricted to people within your social circle). Ching says that this feature in particular is meant to help you discover new people with similar interests. (Update: I think I was a bit confused about this feature. It appears as though the conversations thread only shows replies to a particular person’s tweet that contains a link, not all messages about a particular link that has been shared on Twitter).
While Ginx is ostensibly focused on spreading journalism through the Twittersphere, it also takes liberties to improve the Twitter interface in a variety of unrelated ways (hell, if you’re going to rebuild the Twitter interface, you might as well go all out). There’s a feature that lets you view people’s timelines as they actually see them so you can get a better sense of what conversations they’re engaged in. When you copy a link into Ginx, it automatic calculates how long it’ll be once shortened so you have more room to type. And when you click on a term preceded with a hash mark (e.g. “#obama”), it’ll take you to a page that shows all tweets with that tag.
Right now Ginx is a sophisticated extension to Twitter, but Ching insists that the company will not limit itself to only one social network. It plans to eventually support lots of other networks in the future, perhaps when the other’s have opened up their APIs as much as Twitter has. As far as monetization goes, there are no firm plans on that front either, but Ching suggests that any revenue model may eventually have something to do with helping publishers spread their content to new audiences.
Even as things stand currently, Ginx is an intriguing service that essentially flips the idea of Digg on its head. Instead of the wisdom of the crowds dictating what you read online, Ginx intends to help you discover and share news with people you trust.
Ginx remains in private beta but we hope to share invites with readers soon.