IReader Uses Semantic Analysis to Summarize Linked Pages

IReader 2.0 is a semantic analysis and link preview tool that launched today. Syntactica, the company behind iReader, hopes the browser plug-in will bring its technology back to life after a previous incarnation as a search engine was allegedly shut down by Google. If you’ve seen CoolIris, Browster or Snap then you’re familiar with the idea of a browser plug-in that provides a preview of the page behind a link. What makes the iReader unique is that the software analyses the text behind the link and gives readers a handful of bullet points intended to summarize the most important parts of that text.

Compatible with IE or Firefox on Windows or Mac, the iReader installs very easily. It can be turned off at any time with a right click or control click. The program’s performance varies at launch; some summaries are good and some aren’t. The two second delay between hovering over a link and seeing the small pop-up window is probably unavoidable but is sometimes longer than I care to wait. Of course seeing a pop-up as soon as any link is passed over is annoying as well, so perhaps what’s at issue is that this whole class of tools is unappealing to me.

A quick test of the semantic analysis provides some interesting examples. The iReader does a great job of summarizing – perhaps that’s its true calling, who else do you know that can summarize OpenID clearly? Hovering over the company’s own link results in text with bad enough grammar that it’s distracting. A Google News link for “Brittany Spears Checks Into Rehab” gets no summary at all – perhaps that headline speaks for itself.

I’ll give the iReader an extended trial and perhaps it can surprise me. I can’t help but wonder what else its semantic analysis could better put to use for. (See the previous post on Adaptive Blue for an example of semantic analysis put arguably to better use.) In most cases, the title, context and URL that appears for a link when I hover over it provides sufficient preview for me.

It will be interesting to see what kinds of business models beyond obtrusive advertising emerge for services like this. Analytics could offer interesting opportunities, but pop-up previews could lead to an unhelpful reputation for intrusion that would leave users hesitant to willingly expose their traffic and attention data. Give me a readable summary of the text of all the links I’ve hovered and clicked in a day and I might be interested.

See also Read/Write Web, where Richard MacManus gives iReader a more positive review.