Say what you like about the issues of Google's news-aggregation activities--at least the company's innovating how it presents the stuff: As of today its experimental Fast Flip news browsing service is getting a position on the News home page.
Fast Flip was launched in September, and like all good ideas it almost couldn't be simpler: It's a graphics-heavy way to quickly sniff through the torrent of news being published online all the time, so that you can rapidly spot the items of interest to you. Call it a news-aggregator version of Apple's swish Cover Flow tech, if you like, since that system does more or less the same for albums in your iTunes collection. Google chose to make the system public inside the Google Labs sandbox environment, so that it could have it out on public test while still tinkering with how it works.
But clearly the public has taken to the idea, and Google's satisfied with at least the current level of tech in Fast Flip because as of today it's taking a up a position at the bottom of Google's News home page. That instantly elevates the importance of Fast Flip, and actually improves Google news somewhat too. Before Fast Flip's debut, it was easy to criticize the News page for being a confusing visual mess, with too much text that was actually a barrier to quickly surfing to the good stuff. To a certain extent that problem persists, but at least if you're a habitual Google News user and you're in a rush you can quickly zip down to the Fast Flip segment.
Is there more to this move than a mere tweak to the News service though? Fast flip is clearly a system that's design would work very well on a tablet/Slate PC--particularly if scrolling through the preview panels becomes a multitouch-enabled gesture. And with us expecting a tablet PC revolution, and seemingly every magazine and news source leaping aboard the idea, is this a tiny sign that Google is aware of the trend too? Could be...particularly since Google notes in the blog posting announcing this news that the service is still in beta test, and will be tweaked and improved in the future.
Google could also be nudging the system a bit more into the limelight because it really does seem to work as a way of promoting news pieces. How do we know this? Because FastCompany.com is a Fast Flip regular, and we'd be remiss not to be happy about the fact it's sending significant numbers of Google News readers our way (Hello you Google News Readers!). The move to the home page is only going to improve that situation--but if it's working for us, then it'll be working for other publications too.