Google Fast Flip Represents Experiment Rather than Watershed Breakthrough

Internet bloggers are atwitter today over the unveiling of Google Fast Flip, a news-browsing service that tries to bring to the web the serendipity and intuitiveness of browsing and reading printed media.

Some observers are portraying Google Fast Flip as a significant development, if only because Google is sharing revenue with the limited number of newspaper publishers and other content providers participating in the initiative.

In actuality, Google Fast Flip is an experiment, for the participating newspapers and magazines as much as it is for Google. Everybody is trying to figure out what sorts of content-delivery services will be attractive to readers while providing a business model that satisfies both Google — which already runs the popular Google News service — and the publishers that provide news content.

While Google says Google News is meant to provide a constantly changing array of breaking news, it is positioning Google Fast Flip as an online recreation of the offline experience of leafing through articles in newspapers and magazines.

I like some of the usability aspects of Google Fast Flip, especially for publications I read thoroughly. Nonetheless, I see it as a complement rather than as a replacement for Google News and other comprehensive search-related news sites. What stands as both a strength and weakness of Google Fast Flip is that is presents material from only a limited number of publications.

It’s also available on the Google’s Android handsets and the Apple iPhone. As much as Google would like Android to prosper in the marketplace, it realizes it cannot ignore Apple’s market clout — and growing market share — on mobile devices.

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