Google is getting into the personalized news-delivery app game with Google Currents, a new product available on Thursday for Android and iOS devices. Currents is in the same wheelhouse as Flipboard, which launched its impressive iPhone app earlier this week. Does the search giant’s moving into this space mean smaller competitors should be worried?
Well, Google Currents is a slightly different product than Flipboard or its ilk, since it doesn’t draw links directly from social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Instead, it grabs content from discrete sources. Currents offers many sources to choose from (including GigaOM) in a variety of categories, and it even allows you to follow individual content curators, like Robert Scoble and Guy Kawasaki, or any Google+ public stream. It ties into Google+ quite closely, in fact, letting users share articles or content they discover within Current with the Google social network.
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Content is a little more organized than in Flipboard or other apps, and publishers have more control over how it appears, thanks to a self-service platform also launched on Thursday that allows them to brand and customize their content, even without developer know-how. It’s a nice way to both encourage small producers to get on board with Currents and also help expand Google’s available content library for readers. Publishers also get the opportunity to easily tie their content to Google Analytics to better track reader interaction and engagement.
Currents plays nice with Google Reader, too, so if you already managed most of your reading through Google’s RSS service, you can bring it with you and get the advantages of Currents’ news discovery tools. A lot of the content from its partners is also available in full, so articles are rendered beautifully in their entirety for reading in either landscape or portrait mode directly in-app.
It’s a good-looking reader, featuring clean lines and smooth animations, and it allows for very granular control over what kind of content you do and don’t see. It reminds me of a better-executed version of Yahoo Livestand, with more content and improved social hooks. Also, on the iPhone, I actually find it better organized than Flipboard and more easy to parse. In short, it delivers on the promise of the Yahoo product, which means Flipboard and others in the same business should definitely take note.
One major limitation of Currents so far, however, is that it’s U.S.-only for the time being. That could limit its appeal, but Google will likely try to expand its availability to other countries once it can work out licensing details, if the U.S. launch goes well.