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Summary:

Backed by Skype co-founder Janus Friis, Futureful is a content discovery tool that’s not dissimilar to StumbleUpon, only more heavily based on semantic tagging and machine learning. It’s due to launch in the U.S. in January.

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This year’s Slush conference in Helsinki has been a terrific event, with a very high standard of startup and a disproportionate number of great ideas floating around. One of the most intriguing has been that of Futureful, a sort-of-browser app that’s going to be made available to iPad users in the U.S. in January.

Futureful has been under rather stealthy development for two years, and the team is backed and mentored by Skype co-founder Janus Friis. It’s a bit like StumbleUpon, in that it’s an app that contains a browser (as opposed to being a browser – you can’t enter a URL) and is designed to help the user find new content.

However, Futureful is all about semantic tagging and artificial intelligence. As you browse, the app presents subject tags in a row at the top – click on a tag, and you get taken to another related page with its own set of tags. So, clicking on a ‘Silicon Valley’ tag may take you to a tech story, with the fresh tags above it including something like ‘Moore’s Law’. It basically provides an intelligent chain of content discovery.

What’s more – and here it really differs from StumbleUpon, in my experience – you never see the same content twice.

“It’s a new way to consume content,” co-founder Marko Anderson said. “We want the interface to be as simple and fluid as possible. Based on my usage of the service, I get very different things coming to me. If I choose ‘Silicon Valley’ and somebody else does too, the content might be different.”

I’ve not yet had a chance to play with the beta extensively, and of course it would take significant usage before it’s possible to evaluate how successful the algorithms are, but – if it works – Futureful could be a great way to kill time and learn new things. If you’re an iPad user, of course.

As Anderson pointed out, “mobile devices aren’t great for typing”. Add to that the need for enough space to show the tag row, and it makes sense that Futureful is launching as a tablet app.

“We started with web development, but the tablet is the ultimate consumption device, where the information finds you,” Anderson told me. “We haven’t ruled out a web version, but the smoothness in terms of the cleanness of the UI has just been better on the tablet.”

And Android? “We have no plans yet, but we have had some of the biggest players in the mobile industry ask us to build for them.” Same goes for the iPhone – maybe in the future, but first things first.

Also, there’s no business model yet. That said, if Futureful takes off I’d imagine there would be many options for making money off it.

Here’s a video:

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  1. > Futureful could be a great way to kill time and learn new things.

    Not quite right. IMO Futureful could be great way for serendipitous discovery

  2. That’s the dullest promo video I’ve ever seen. Way to get people excited about your product guys!

  3. Liinus Hietaniemi Thursday, November 22, 2012

    Thank you for writing this article, Mr. Meyer!

    Quick note. You mentioned:
    “It’s a bit like StumbleUpon, in that it’s an app that contains a browser (as opposed to being a browser – you can’t enter a URL) and is designed to help the user find new content.”

    –> Although not part of the core user experience, you can actually enter a URL to the discovery area and use Futureful as a browser. It is one way for users to add new content to the app from the web!

    Best,

    Liinus,
    liinus@futureful.com

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