Touch interfaces for content and social media are, thanks to applications like Pulse and Flipboard – the ‘new new thing’. They are presenting streams of information in a far easier to digest manner and generating lots of engagement. Think how long you might spend on an app like Tweetdeck and then work out what would happen if that way of consuming went even more mainstream, especially on tablets like the iPad.
Well this appears to be the ambition of a new free Android and iPhone app which launches today, My Taptu, and will appear on iPad in due course. It’s also part of the re-invention of its maker, Taptu, which has until now specialised in mobile search and touch-based interfaces for mobile, but is now bringing that expertise to bear on an app which promises to organise your social and content streams in a highly scalable way. And they appear to have the firepower.
Currently Pulse only lets you add 20 streams to the app, while Flipboard allows for 21 ‘sections’. My Taptu will let users have have 5000 mixed streams. That is a huge difference. Taptu could well have a chance against Flipboard and Pulse with its new app when it eventually launches on iPad in December.
Although billed as a new social news aggregator, the difference here is that they appear to have mashed up a little of the interface magic and RSS capabilities of Pulse with the social elements of Flipboard, at least after a fashion. The ability to bring in realtime social streams like Twitter and Facebook are limited to RSS for now until the next version launches in a few weeks.
Users can add single streams from content publishers and mixed topic streams via Taptu itself. For instance, the technology news ‘stream’ might take news from TechCrunch, Venture Beat, the NYT¹s Bits Blog, GigaOm and the FT.com. (This called a Folder in my book). But a clever aspect is the ability to watch content stream in from sites that do not have a RSS feed – especially useful for many fashion retail sites for instance. Taptu has also created a ‘Stream Store’ of suggested feeds where you can add streams by clicking on trending topics and by searching for them. You add RSS feeds if Taptu has found them, and it has found a lot. You can also recommend, manage and share the streams.
Does it pull in content from my twitter friends like Flipboard? Not yet. Self-curation and sharing will drop in a few weeks. While the app claims to integrate Social Streams, I found this limited. I could only add my own Twitter stream via searching for it inside the app and then it was clearly just picking up my Twitter account’s RSS feed not the realtime stream. But I’m assured this is poised to become much easier following this initial launch. “The first release is all about content” I’m told. For now you can at least share content you discover via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Despite the above limitations, we’re hearing on the grapevine that the app has been wowing Apple insiders. Right now we’re talking about an app which will bring in content (curated by in-house editorial people), into a very nice interface. But around the corner they plan to take on the likes of Flipboard and others.
Mitch Lazar, who recently switched chairman roles with founder Steve Ives to become CEO, says: “My Taptu is a clever yet simple social news aggregator that we believe our customers will return to many times a day.” The key phrase for Taptu here is “many times a day”.
There is an interesting story behind Taptu. When it appeared focused on mobile search a few years ago it was way ahead of its time. It even had a name which implied touch interfaces. But it’s now had to re-invent itself at least a couple of times to take account of the appearance of the iPhone, touch screens and tablets.
In all honesty it’s a while since heard from Taptu. Last year they released an Android and then an iPhone app last year for search, and in 2008 secured a £6.45m series B financing. But not a lot else has been happening, at least publicly. We rather thought they were heading for the deadpool.
Lazar says Taptu had “great assets but not enough gravity, in the sense of bringing people back to the app several times a day.” He felt streams was where the market was going so shifted the company in this direction.
“We think we can monetise in other ways. It’s not exciting unless we can get to a subscription model, but won’t happen any time soon.” He says Flipboard is a “great design. but we are on to something.” He also acknowledges that Tweetdeck is in much the same competition category as the ‘new’ Taptu.
The move makes sense for Taptu, which until now has dedicated its in-house curation resources to its mobile App Taptu Search. But it’s clear to me that despite good reviews the app was not the future of this company. So it’s fascinating to see them pivot their strategy in this manner.
However, just adding Twitter and Facebook is only half the battle. With sites like Curated.by, Peer Index and Nsyght now, it’s not enough to just pull in feeds – you also need smart filtering, curation and intelligence.
While Lazar runs the company from Denver, Colorado, its core team is based in Cambridge, UK, where is draws on a lot of local technology talent, many of which feature in a series of new, moody videos the company has made to accompany this launch.
Watching them, you get the feeling this launch represents Taptu’s big throw of the dice. And with MyTaptu they are hoping for a double six.
Here’s my short test of the app: