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At this point, there’s no question the internet offers more than we can reasonably ingest. Even trying to keep up with Buzzfeed’s Beyonce posts while holding down a full-time job would be exhausting.
So who exactly is going to organize the web’s information into a digestible format? That’s still TBD. Flipboard and Zite and Prismatic are just a few solutions (if you look beyond my beloved Google Reader to social, iPad-oriented apps), but they haven’t necessarily won the market yet. Flipboard announced in August that it’s been gaining traction, but that still only translates to 20 million total users, compared to Twitter’s 200 million active users. So the social reader market remains an interesting one to watch.
And one of those apps to watch is Thirst, which is relaunching its product Tuesday as a social reader for news. The company’s first product was more of a social reader for tweets, organizing the ones you missed in a new format. While that product was interesting, it definitely did not jibe with Twitter’s new API restrictions, and Thirst announced it would expand into other types of content after presenting at GigaOM’s Mobilize conference.
Rather than shuffle tweets, the new Thirst app instead tries to do what most social readers do: it presents with you the most popular news stories of the day, lets you select topics and categories that interest you, and read articles within the app. The big question is still traction and users, obviously — you need friends using the app to make sharing and commenting interesting, and your users have to be willing to declare their interests and set up the app. These are significant hurdles, no doubt.
But one of my favorite features in the app is the ability to like or comment on articles, which is reminiscent of the old function on Google Reader where you could like and comment on articles among your friends. Google unfortunately axed the feature despite user protest in favor of rolling out its social product in Google+. It’s smart that Thirst would model that feature in hopes of capturing some of the enthusiasm that the old Google Reader did.