Pulse Comes To The Web (With A Little Help From Microsoft)

Pulse, the popular news reading app for iOS and Android, is finally available on the web. The service, which launched two years ago and now has over 15 million users, only focused on mobile platforms until now. Its users, as the company’s CEO Akshay Kothari told me last week, have long been asking for a web version, but the team decided to focus on adding more publishing partners and getting the mobile experience right before tackling the web. Now, however, after nine months of development and with a little help from Microsoft, the Pulse team feels that its web app is ready to launch.

Pulse For The Web

Kothari told me that he “wanted to make sure that the quality of the experience remained in line with what Pulse create on mobile.” For a company that was always so focused on mobile, that was quite an interesting challenge. In Kothari’s view, iOS and Android are also relatively easy to develop for compared to the web where the large variety of browsers, operating system and add a lot more complexity compared to tightly controlled platforms like iOS and even Android.

In terms of the web app’s feature set, Pulse pretty much offers the same features as on mobile. Because your data on all the different platforms always stays in sync, you can easily start using the web version and see all your regular news sources right after you sign in for the first time. The web app, says Pulse, is “designed for discovery” and while it’s still a very visual experience, Pulse did away with the row layout it uses in its mobile apps. Instead, your list of sources is now on the left and stories appear in a beautiful dynamic grid layout. The design is responsive, so the layout will automatically adapt itself to the size of your browser windows.

Pulse And Microsoft

To do all of this, Pulse got a little help from Microsoft (and also worked with the designers at Pixel Lab). Microsoft decided that Pulse would make for a great app to demo the advanced web features of IE10 on Windows 8. The company also helped Pulse optimize the web app for tablets and other touch-enabled devices. Kothari gave me a demo of Pulse running in the chromeless version of IE10 in Metro on a Windows 8 tablet last week and it’s indeed a very compelling product there, too, with fluid animations and the ability to use complex multi-touch swipe gestures to control the app. On a Windows tablet, it just takes a swipe to switch between stories, a two-finger swipe opens up the reading list and the standard pinch gesture closes an article. Despite these optimizations, though, Pulse still works in every other modern browser, too.

As Microsoft’s general manager for Internet Explorer Ryan Gavin notes today, “to date, touch in a browser environment has been pretty limited. Basic swipe and click commands are really it, constrained by a browser platform that essentially only supports elementary gestures. The net result is touch has become second class citizen when you browse the web on your favorite device.” Given Microsoft’s focus on touch with Windows 8, though, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the company chose a highly visual app like Pulse to highlight the power of its platform.