Startup General Cybernetics is offering an unusual twist on the web browsing experience with a new product called Streamfully.
Once you install the Streamfully extension for Google Chrome, you can start hovering over links that you see on the web, then Streamfully will display previews of the page that you’re about to click to. For example, if you visit the TechCrunch homepage, you can mouse over any of our headlines and see selected text and images from the story, as well as related snippets from elsewhere on the site or the web.
These previews can be useful from the start, particularly if you’re looking to just get the important facts from a particular piece of content. However, founder and president Paul Pangaro said the snippets should also get better over time, as Streamfully learns from your usage and can start tailoring the previews accordingly. So if, like Pangaro, you’re primarily interested in cybernetics, and there’s a long article that mentions cybernetics a few times, he said you can “go right to it” rather than skimming the whole thing to find the few nuggets that you’re looking for.
Pangaro suggested that this moves web pages and articles away from being “giant containers” and makes the reading experience “more conversational” — in other words, more relevant to your interests, less repetitive (since Streamfully will focus on what’s unique about a piece of content and what it hasn’t shown you in other previews), and with more of a “dance and flow.”
And it necessarily mean it will be shallower experience, either — Pangaro said that by since it has lowered “the bio cost of looking” (i.e., the annoyance of clicking on a page and discovering that it isn’t what you were looking for), Streamfully might actually encourage users to spend more time with content once they know it’s a good fit.
The Chrome extension is free (Pangaro said it will be “free forever”). However, Streamfully is also being offered as a tool for online publishers who want to offer this experience to all their readers, and the company plans to make money from the publisher side eventually. For one thing, Pangaro noted that the personalization technology could also be used to deliver relevant ads.
Pangaro, by the way, has an extensive tech background, with a Ph.D. in cybernetics from Brunel University and past roles as distinguished market strategist at Sun Microsystems and founding chief technology officer at Snap.com. It sounds like he experimented with a number of different ways to apply this personalized preview technology, including news aggregation and personalized search. He said he’s focused on the Streamfully product now, but those other experiments points to ways the company could expand in the future (or other paths it could pursue).
And yes, Streamfully will eventually work on mobile, too — Pangaro gave me a preview of a version of the technology that’s currently in development and is pared down for smartphone screens.