Twitter Vets Launch OneShot, An App For Highlighting And Tweeting Screenshots Of Text

A pair of Twitter vets today launched a handy mobile application called OneShot that makes it easier to share screenshots of text to Twitter, along with your comment and a link to the page in question. The new app also optionally allows you to crop the image, highlight a selection of text, and even add a brightly colored background to make your screenshot stand out better when displayed in Twitter’s stream.

OneShot’s co-creator Jason Goldman, formerly a VP of product at Twitter, co-founder at Obvious and before that, a product manager at Blogger, refers to the new app as more of a side project and not an attempt at starting a new company. He, along with Ian Ownbey, also previously of Twitter and Branch, instead just wanted to “mess around with apps” and build things together for fun, Goldman explains.

The two created Susworks, which serves as the umbrella for their partnership on this app and others they decide to team up on in the future, he says. The focus for these forthcoming projects won’t necessarily be other apps built on top of Twitter, but that seemed like a natural place to start, given their backgrounds.

OneShot is the first app to come out of Susworks, and the only one that’s in active development at this time.

“This one was a particular itch that we wanted to scratch,” Goldman explains. “It’s something that seemed would make the Twitter experience for reading articles better.”

Today, a number of Twitter users share links to news stories on Twitter along with their commentary or opinion, but in order for their Twitter followers to participate in the conversation, they generally have to click through on the link to read the post for themselves. After all, if you want to share a snippet of text on Twitter, you’re limited to 140 characters, which makes tweeting and commenting on news articles difficult.

Goldman says he’s shared a number of screenshots in the past, often from The New York Times application, for example. “I found myself screenshotting and highlighting, but that annoyed me because it just looked bad. You’d get the toolbar on the end of the highlight…it just felt junky to me,” he says.

“We thought we could build an app that could do it a little bit better,” he adds.

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However, using the iPhone’s screenshot functionality was something Goldman says he used to think of as something only power users knew how to do — that is, until his girlfriend’s 14-year old niece came to stay with them over summer.

They saw then that she and her friends would often screenshot directly from the iOS Notes app when posting on Instagram, for example. In addition, thanks to his newer position on Timehop’s board, he also found that many users would take screenshots of their memories when sharing them instead of using the native sharing functionality in a given application.

“I didn’t realize that regular people understand the screenshot gesture and use it quite a lot,” he says. That led him to believe that something like OneShot might actually appeal to a more mainstream user base, after all.

The OneShot app is straightforward and simple to use. You just take a screenshot of the article you’re reading in the web browser and launch the app. You can then optionally mark up the text, crop the image or add a background color by scrubbing your finger over the screen. Or you can skip these extra steps and immediately post the image to Twitter right from the app’s interface, while also adding your own two cents in the box provided.

One thing the app does that’s fairly clever, it’s worth noting, is that it detects the source of the screenshot automatically. This little bit of magic is something of an engineering feat — OneShot uses OCR to turn the image into text, then takes advantage of Yahoo’s Search API to search for the content. The API returns the article link and displays it in the app for the user to confirm. While the app gets it right the majority of the time, in the case it’s not, you can just copy and paste a link from your clipboard instead.

If the new app takes off, OneShot’s creators may choose to add functionality in time, such as support for other social networks or an Android version. But for now, OneShot is a free download on iTunes.