On Saturday, Microsoft pulled the cover off Snipp3t. This free iOS app looks a lot like any other endlessly scrolling news reader, but it doesn't aggregate based on trending topics, specific outlets, or Facebook friend "likes". It's completely based on people.
Famous people to be exact. Snipp3t acts as a streamlined interface for Bing search, but with a narrowed focus on celebrity news. Find a celeb, click on their famous and finely chiselled mug, and you're sent every bit of news that name-drops them.
Download the app on iOS 7 or higher, and you're greeted with the ubiquitous "Personalise with Facebook" question. If you choose to opt out of connecting your FB profile (with yet ANOTHER app), Snipp3t basically transforms into a limited Bing interface delivering celebrity news you probably don't care about. The app won't let you
stalk "subscribe" to celebrities until you've accepted the inevitable.
Once you've synced with Facebook, the app will pull up celebs — living or dead — that you've liked and automatically subscribe you to them. For me, this only added author Aldous Huxley. I don't know. I don't use Facebook a lot.
From there you search for a couple more famous friends, and Snipp3t updates your news feed. I will give Microsoft some credit, the dev team created an attractive interface and the aggregating work on each individual post is actually pretty good. For instance, I stumbled upon an article about Steven Seagal performing in Crimea and Snipp3t provided multiple news sources and related images, tweets, and videos.
But the app also has a few shortcomings and early adopter frustrations — chief among them being "trending posts". If I'm going to guiltily download an app to help me follow the rich and famous, I do not need "trending" Kim Kardashian news worming its way between important posts on Wu-Tang Clan's new single and David Duchovny's divorce.
Also, the definition of "celebrity" is, of course, a subjective one. I couldn't find lots of musicians, such as M. Ward or Ty Segall, comic book creators, or even Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (though they did have Bill Gates). Luckily, if Snipp3t can't find your star-studded query, it will prompt you to either "search the web" or "send us a request for a celebrity". So maybe over time, this function will be more useful.
As far as news aggregation goes, Snipp3t doesn't suck. If Microsoft can grow on what they have here — and obviously bring it to Android and, I don't know, Windows Phone — Snipp3t could bring a small amount of success because, as we know, everyone loves their celebrities. [TUAW]