Flipboard wins me back by bringing user-generated 'Magazines' to the web

Credit: Source: Flipboard

I'm a little irked today. I get that way when I have to eat my words and totally reverse my position on a product or service. In this case, Flipboard.

Flipboard has been around for a while and initially, if I remember correctly, it was pitched as a kind of social news reader for tablets and smartphones. You could pick from some curated sources, add your Twitter or Facebook feeds, or import content from Google Reader.

Whatever content you sucked in would appear in Flipboard as a series of tiles. It was pretty but I snarkily dismissed it as inefficient since I was primarly using it to access my Google Reader feeds and when I had a few hundred new items to scan, Flipboard was much too slow. I only used it for an afternoon or so before dismissing it out of hand.

Yesterday Flipboard announced that Flipboard Magazines are now available on the web. I had no idea what a Flipboard Magazine was. Maybe you don't either so let me share my findings.

It turns out that Flipboard seems to have changed its focus since I first tried it. They're pushing curated content a bit harder and they'd added this Magazine concept, which essentially crowd-sources content curation.

A Magazine is basically just a grouping of content. Anyone can create a Magazine and then start populating it by using an icon in the Flipboard app, or via a 'bookmarklet' in your web browser on your computer. Flipboard then takes that content and arranges it into a pretty magazine-like format you can flip through.

Apparently Magazines have been a success because when you're looking for new content to load into Flipboard, there's a whole section called "By Our Readers" that's made up of these magazines.

So let's get back to yesterday's news: Flipboard Magazines arriving on the browser.

Now aside from being inefficient, one of my initial gripes about Flipboard is that it works better on bigger screens. It's fine on an iPad but, to me at least, felt a little cramped on my Nexus 7 screen. For Flipboard bigger seems better, and you know what's a lot bigger than any of your mobile devices? Your PC's monitor.

So put down your tablet and head to Flipboard's Community page and find something that grabs you. Maybe you're interested in the America's Cup race or you just like colors.

Click the link and start flipping (I suggest maximizing your browser for the full effect). On the PC there are a bunch of ways to turn the pages. Click the arrows at the edge of the screen, use the arrow keys on your keyboard, the scroll wheel on your mouse, or tap the space bar to move forward (these methods all worked in Chrome, at least).

It's a pretty nice experience for just relaxing and browsing content. It's still not perfect; for instance I'd love it if videos would play in-frame rather than opening a new browser tab. Also, for some strange reason you have to create your Flipboard account via the app on a mobile device (though you don't need an account to read a Magazine).

If you make your own Magazine you can mark it private, or you can leave it open to the public and share it. You can find your own magazines at http://flipboard.com/profile/your_user_name. It seems like it could be a nice way to bundle content to share with friends. Unfortunately there's no way to allow your friends to edit/add to one of your Magazines; hopefully such a feature is in the works.

Anyway as you can probably tell, I'm suddenly excited about Flipboard, mostly because I can access these Magazines on the web. I'd be interested to know if anyone else thinks this is cool, or if I'm just getting too easy to please in my old age. Please leave a comment!

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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