Google tries to enhance news browsing with Fast Flip

Google is developing a product called Fast Flip that aims to make it simpler and faster to browse through news articles on the Web, a process that the company finds is cumbersome and discourages people from reading more online.

Fast Flip was expected to go live late Monday at the Google Labs Web site, where the company features early stage product prototypes. As such, Fast Flip could change significantly, become temporarily unavailable or even disappear without notice.

Fast Flip lets readers glance at pages and browse through them quickly without having to wait for multiple page elements to load, which can significantly slow the rendering of articles, especially if they have multimedia content, according to Google.

The idea is to try to replicate online the ease with which people flip through the pages of print magazines and newspapers in the offline world. This could motivate people to read more online, which Google argues will help publishers attract more readers and increase their revenue.

However, when users click on a Fast Flip link, they will be taken to the corresponding publisher's Web site, where the Google technology will not be on hand to display the page more quickly.

People who try out Fast Flip will find articles from 36 publishers, including The New York Times, the Washington Post, Salon and Newsweek, as well as contextually relevant ads. For now, Fast Flip will only feature content from the publishers Google has been working with to develop the technology, but it plans to add more in the future.

Fast Flip will also feature a search engine and let users share content. Based on their reading choices, users will see suggestions for other articles they might find interesting.

At this point, Google isn't making any tools available for external developers to integrate Fast Flip with their Web sites and applications.

"Launching Google Fast Flip in Labs lets us learn from our users and our publishing partners so we can keep exploring ways to display news and help publishers make more money from their content," a spokesman for Google said via e-mail.

"We know that Google Fast Flip isn't perfect, and there's a chance it may never become a full-blown Google product. But we think there are some interesting ideas behind it," he added.

In addition to working on regular PC browsers, the Fast Flip Web site adapts itself when reached from iPhone and Android-based mobile devices, letting users flip pages via a touch-screen interface. Google was due to unveil Fast Flip at the TechCrunch 50 Conference in San Francisco.

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