Flipboard, the brilliant iPad app that has changed the way I read the news.

Innovation, the Internet, gadgets, and more.
Aug. 3 2010 5:26 PM

Flipping for Flipboard

The brilliant iPad app that has changed the way I read the news.

1_123125_2126996_2240593_2258796_100803_tech_fbgrabtn
Flipboard

I've been using the iPad since it came out in April, and I still haven't strayed from my initial impression: Apple's tablet computer is a luxury, not a necessity. I must say, though, that I've gotten attached to using the iPad to surf the Web, browse Twitter and Facebook, and play a lot of games. (My favorites: Modern Conflict HD and Real Racing HD.) The iPad has also been a boon to my reading habits. I've purchased many e-books from Amazon's Kindle store (you can read them on the beautiful app that Amazon built for the iPad), and I've read countless magazine stories through Instapaper, the brilliant program that lets you save Web articles to your mobile devices.

In the last few days, I've started using another iPad app that has changed how I consume the news. The program is called Flipboard, and it turns the iPad into what I've been wishing it would become—a dynamic magazine that combines the diversity and real-time updates of the Web with the beauty of print. If Flipboard isn't the future of magazines, it is at least a very good take on the future. It's also my favorite new iPad pastime.

Advertisement

When you first load up Flipboard, it asks for your Facebook and Twitter account information. The program then goes out and grabs everything that your friends and followers are linking to—news stories, photos, videos, songs, etc. Then the app does something magical: It "resolves" these links, presenting you with a small bit of preview content rather than the meaningless URLs you see on social networks (http://bit.ly/dyKi6l). Even better, it lays out that content in a really pretty way. Flipboard arranges stories and photos in a style that will be familiar to anyone who's ever read a magazine or a newspaper—the headlines, pull quotes, and graphics occupy the full iPad screen, giving you a quick take on several articles at once. Clicking through the "river" of links that you're presented with on Twitter and Facebook can sometimes seem like a chore; perusing those same links on Flipboard is both more efficient and loads more entertaining.

This experience might not sound novel to iPad users who regularly browse the App Store, where there are lots of news-reader apps that claim to personalize the Web to your tastes. I've downloaded several of these programs, though, and none has stuck with me. That's because most of the reader apps made for the iPad so far (for instance, a cumbersome $5 program called The Early Edition) use RSS, the Web syndication system that I've long argued is past its prime. RSS readers are based on the false premise that our digital tastes are both limited and more-or-less static—that you have five or 10 or 100 favorite sites, and you want to read them over and over again.

But that's not how I read the Web, and I'd bet it's not how you do, either. Instead of choosing a few specific sites to read, I like to click on the links I find in my e-mail, on aggregator sites like the Drudge Report and the Huffington Post, on blogs, and most of all through the people I follow on Twitter and Facebook. Navigating the Web through links, rather than through feeds, gives me a much wider range of articles to read, and it leads me to places that I wouldn't have thought of going to on my own.

It's this serendipitous quality that makes Flipboard so addictive. The app mashes up stories from all over the Web in a way that feels beautifully random. As I flip through Flipboard right now, I see an activist graphic that John Cusack posted on Twitter next to a Wired.com story about whale shark poop near a Bloomberg story about the Russian wildfires and this hilarious collection of New Yorker cartoons captioned with Kanye West's tweets.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Altered State
Sept. 17 2014 11:51 PM The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 17 2014 11:48 PM Spanking Is Great for Sex Which is why it’s grotesque for parenting.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?