Feeling bored by the same old blogs? Perhaps you’re lost without Google Reader as your guide? A new app called Futureful hopes to bring serendipitous browsing back to the web experience by providing a design-heavy platform for content discovery.
Open the app, and a collection of bubbles for different topics (short film, Silicon Valley, photography, privacy) spontaneously appear. Click on one that interests you, and then a series of related topic bubbles surface along with a suggested article. As you connect topic bubbles with your finger in different combinations (for example "memory" and "modern art"), the app brings up articles that fit.
"We’re trying to combine the latest articles and what’s popular, but also to give you these kind of diamonds that are deep in the sea of internet," explains Futureful co-creator Jarno Koponen over the phone from Finland, where most of the seven-person team is based.
Koponen says the system makes recommendations based on what other users with similar interests appear to like, but also keeps track of user interests to surface relevant websites. While there’s no "like" button to declare your affection for certain content, the app monitors how much time you spend with an article, whether you scroll all the way down, and whether or not you share it via social media, and makes assessments based on those data points.
"It’s playful, it’s simple, and it communicates the possibility to combine things, but at the same time it also encourages you to explore further," explains Koponen. "We wanted to break this kind of linear thinking—if you think about search results, if you think about newsfeed—we wanted to break this linearity of experience." He compares the spontaneous content discovery that Futureful allows to meeting a stranger on the street. "That might change your life."
Launched in beta in the U.S. earlier this year, the app is available now for the iPhone and iPad.