Pipes Is A Clever App That Lets You Track Any Topic You Care About

Prepare to further isolate yourself in a world containing only the news and information you care about. A new mobile application called Pipes has just launched a simple tool to help you find and follow any topic, from Apple or Google to the FIFA World Cup, or whatever else you want.

The app is similar in some ways to short-form news reading apps like Circa or Yahoo’s News Digest, or alerting tools like recent TechCrunch Disrupt participant Notivo, as it’s also designed to offer mobile-friendly access to news and information. But in Pipes’ case, the app isn’t about offering you bite-sized summaries, but instead provides feeds of popular articles on the subject matter at hand, as well as tweets, and even the item’s Wikipedia page, for reference.

According to co-founder Vinay Anand, who built Pipes along with Siddarth Goliya and a small team of mainly 20-year-old engineers, Pipes’ backend today crawls data from over 10,000 sources every hour, allowing you to track just about anything.

“The two of us really felt the need to personalize news,” explains Anand. “We really feel that people have specific things they want to track and want to be alerted on it and that’s exactly what Pipes allows you to do,” he says.

1 (List of Pipes)

How It Works

Pipes is well-designed and straightforward to set up and use. From the main screen, you just click a plus (“+”) button to add a new pipe (aka, topic). You then enter your search term or keyword, and tap to add it to your homepage. You can also shake your phone for a suggestion of trending pipes to add, which is fun, if a bit less practical.

After adding your topics, each appears in its own section on the main page, waiting to be explored. You tap into these for lists of links to news articles, which pull in the full article’s text in most cases via RSS feeds. From here, you can also bookmark items as well as share them via text, WhatsApp, Email, Google+, Twitter and Facebook.

You can also customize push notifications for your pipes, while controlling their frequency.

Separate sections point you to the topic’s Wikipedia page and related tweets. I don’t care for the decision to only pull in hashtagged tweets here, however, as I find there’s a lot more content discussed on Twitter than the tweets from those devoted to hashtagging everything they say. Plus, Pipes’ selection of tweets feels curated and stale, as it didn’t update with a pull-to-refresh gesture during testing. The tweets aren’t time-stamped either, so their only purpose now it seems is to give you a sense of the conversation, or to point you to other articles that may have been missed in the “News” section.

Meanwhile, a “Top Stories” section on the Pipes main screen lets you break out of your own little world a bit to see other popular news items.

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The overall look-and-feel of Pipes and the functionality it provides is compelling. However, ultimately the app will have to face down other more popular competitors like Flipboard or Bloglovin for casual news readers, or RSS feed-reading utilities like Feedly or Reeder for hard-core news consumers.

The co-founders have worked on several business ventures together in the past, including two that failed, one that Anand describes as a “moderate success” and now Pipes, their fourth venture. This time around, they’re funding development through money from Doodle Creatives, their Mumbai-based design and development shop, but have not taken in outside funding.

Pipes is a free download on both iOS and Android.