Google’s Fast Flip : Breaking The Internet & User Experience In One Fell Swoop

So Google decided to break the Internet paradigm today by releasing a new tool called Fast Flip. It’s essentially a visual browser for news. Google apparently has far too much spare CPU time in its datacenters so they decided to take image snapshots of news pages.

This is solid evidence that Google has lost its collective mind. The Internet is about links and connecting content to content. I felt slightly stupid when I clicked on what looked like a search box in one of the snapshots only to find out it’s not a search box but an image of one.

Is there research out there that supports the theory that people want visual artifacts (in the form of snapshots, thumbnails and the like) vs. the actual content? Searchme, a cover flow-style search engine, tried to fulfill a similar phantom need. They raised a ton of venture capital to deliver this visual browse search engine. Nobody cared and now they’re gone.

What’s interesting about this tool is that it’s the anti-Readability. Instead of helping us get rid of the junk around what we’re trying to read, Google fossilized the layout – junk and all – in images.

Bizarre.

7 Comments Google’s Fast Flip : Breaking The Internet & User Experience In One Fell Swoop

  1. Ryan

    Agreed! I read some press on this yesterday, went and checked it out, and was completely befuddled. You start reading the article, and then when you can’t scroll the static image, you have to click to load the article in its entirety. How is this faster than just going to the article in the first place?

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  2. Ward

    I think you are both getting your knickers in a twist over naught.
    “The Internet is about links and connecting content to content.”
    These previews are all links are they not?
    “Is there research out there that supports the theory that people want visual artifacts (in the form of snapshots, thumbnails and the like) vs. the actual content?”
    Isn’t this just essentially an extended version of the snippets of page content that are returned in a normal Google search? They have expanded it to include a sampling of images and more of the text content.
    “Instead of helping us get rid of the junk around what we’re trying to read, Google fossilized the layout – junk and all – in images.”
    The junk is where you are headed if you are clicking into a site from normal SERPs. By giving essentially a preview of the “junk”, one could argue Google is saving the user time by allowing them to include an instant analysis of the sites design as it relates to readability before making the jump and downloading a bunch of separates images, js files, css files, text content for the whole article etc…
    The more I think about it the more it makes sense to me. Not sure if really enjoy the experience enough to use it but time will tell.

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  3. Richard Ziade

    @Ward – I don’t think it’s too ironic because that install page is one time visit and you’ll hopefully never worry about it ever again. In other words: it’s not something worth reading.

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  4. Mark E

    I think it’s premature to knock Fastflip because I value tools that dice and slice information in new ways. Today I spent some time on ProPublica, and revisiting it with Fastflip I found that I was able to navigate more efficiently using my reader. But my reader delivers source-grouped content; I find that cutting across sources (by topic or, as in Fastflip, by news category) is also valuable.
    I am slowed by Fastflip’s presentation of both top-level pages and inside site pages, however. Too cognitively confusing for a quick glance, IMO.
    I much prefer the Newseum’s front pages gallery. If I am going to navigate by image, I’d rather be seeing newspaper front pages, say, than a compendium of top-level web pages, articles, and the rest.

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  5. Peter

    I love it, and already use it all the time. This is going to be perfect for the tablet when it comes out, and already works quite well for the iphone. Don’t be so skeptical – rules are make to be broken sometimes. You’ll see, this will be successful.

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  6. Chris Dary

    You know, I agree with this statement, but I stumbled upon a pretty compelling argument for Fast Flip today. It’s about speed.
    Many news websites these days, ads and all, take 10-15 seconds to load, and that’s just terrible. By rasterizing these pages for the user they’re attempting to get rid of that pain by just loading the images themselves. It also gets around the issue of having to parse out HTML.
    Essentially, they built this because current news websites are too slow to skim. At least, that’s the argument. I’m not sure I buy it, but it does make sense.

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