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Flipboard Upgrade Boosts Speed, Integrates Social Search and Instagram


Flipboard, the popular news aggregator/browser app, just got a significant makeover that boosts speed and includes Instagram support and a clever social search. Let the news-browser wars begin.

Just the other day we covered the launch of Zite, a smart news-browser app for the iPad that personalizes the news content it delivers to you based on your habits. It was a shot across the bow of Flipboard, which is among the leading news browsing apps on the iPad. Now Flipboard's revealed a suite of tweaks and polishes, bug-fixes, and speed-boosts that make the app much more powerful.

Leading the changes is an Instagram feature that uses Instagram's services' new API hooks, and brings all of the shared stream of photos coming from Instagram's many users—presented as a touchscreen-friendly digital photo album, and including all the usual like, comment and share features. Instagram notes it's the "first fully functional" implementation of its services on the iPad, perfectly timed to coincide with the arrival of the iPad 2, whose twin cameras will certainly boost Instagram's success.

Highlighting the fact Flipboard draws much of its news feeds from social networks, the app is now better at connecting you to the data you're searching for—Flipboard says it's the "first to offer search across social networks." The system scans through Flickr, Instagram, Facebook's publicly accessible feeds, and Twitter; it also includes support for hashtag searches.

The updated Flipboard is slicker and has new official content partners—including Wired. Is this a radical makeover? Not necessarily. The social search feature is welcome, and underlines that Flipboard is a news-centric app that has crowdsourced news at its core. It reminds you that it's supposed to be a dynamic entity, unlike some other news browsers that are more static (think traditional news portals, like The New York Times app). Including Instagram is a clever move that adds in a more "entertainment" feeling to Flipboard—meaning you could use it for work as well as play, and the company even describes it as being "more of everything in one place." It's not adaptively personalized like Zite is, but since it offers more feeds, you now have more options to deliberately personalize the Flipboard feeds yourself.

Both these developing apps remind us that there's a growing alternative to reading the news via traditional online portals—including AOL's and Yahoo's.

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