Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Pulse Builds Snazzy Web App With Help From Microsoft

Newsreader Pulse is today debuting a Web version that looks more like an app than a site.

Pulse for the Web has a tiled, full-screen, image-heavy layout. When a user resizes the window, the story tiles automatically resize and snap into place — with a JavaScript technique that Pulse is so proud of creating, it plans to open source it so other people can use it, too.

The Web app also got some help under the hood from Microsoft; when used on a Windows Tablet, it speedily responds to multitouch gestures to expand stories and swipe through them.

In the test version I used and the screenshots I’ve seen, the Pulse site now displays an Internet Explorer icon up in the top-right corner, even when used in other browsers.

As part of its move to the Web, Pulse will be encouraging users to start accounts, so that they can sync their state between their browsers and iOS and Android devices. “A good portion of the Pulse audience” has never created an account, except maybe to connect their Twitter and Facebook for sharing articles, said Pulse CEO Akshay Kothari.

Prior to this launch, Pulse’s Web presence was woefully thin — it just asked potential users to submit their cellphone numbers so they could more easily download one of the Pulse mobile apps.

Pulse has more than 15 million users — counted as people who’ve used the app more than once — and they read more than 250 million stories each month. Pulse either takes public publisher feeds or works through partnerships to get fuller content. Publishers join the platform because its users like to share — more than 60,000 stories are shared per day, and each share leads to six to seven reads, Kothari said.

(For what it’s worth, as a fanatic and frequent news consumer, I personally prefer a text-based RSS reader to a more visual approach like Pulse. For those of you who are like-minded, I find the Pulse approach is helpful for giving a more-scannable display than some of the aggregators I frequent, like Hacker News and Techmeme.)

The shift from native mobile apps to Web apps “is not going to happen later this year or next year, but it’s going to happen soon,” Kothari contended. He said he used to be even more skeptical, but the partnership with Microsoft showed him the potential of HTML5.

Plus, it would be nice to unite his 25-person company around one product, rather than the three platforms — iOS, Android and Web — that it is currently divided into.

(By the way, that team just up and moved itself from a garage-style office in downtown Palo Alto to a top-floor office in downtown San Francisco, which is where 70 percent of Pulse’s employees already lived.)

Now that Pulse is on all the platforms it wants to be, the company will focus on extending its product around topics like discussion and curation, Kothari said.

Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald