OnSwipe Looks to Ride Third Wave of the Web with New Content Network

2/15/12Follow @gthuang

“This is the new network for the Internet, and it’s focused on tablets and touch devices,” says Jason Baptiste.

In other words, this is no run-of-the-mill product announcement. Or so it seems. OnSwipe, a tech startup based in New York (with lead investors in Boston), is rolling out a content distribution network for publishers who use the company’s software to design versions of their websites for touch-based tablets like the iPad. OnSwipe also has overhauled its user interface and visual design, adding new social sharing capabilities and touchscreen gesture features such as double-tapping to close pages.

Baptiste, the co-founder and CEO of OnSwipe, calls today’s release “channel surfing for publications.” What he means is the new features allow readers to jump from article to article across different publications as they browse content (see image below)—and this fits with his assertion that tablets are “the TV of this generation.” For OnSwipe, “it’s a pretty big evolution,” he says, but at the same time, “from day one, we said, ‘This is a network, not a tools company.’”

Let’s back up for a minute. OnSwipe released its first product just last year, but publishers such as Ziff Davis, StyleCaster, and the BBC already use its platform to pump out Web content designed for tablet devices. Baptiste declined to give specific user numbers except to say the company reaches “millions of people” and powers “thousands upon thousands of sites.”

Now what’s interesting about today’s development is that OnSwipe is trying to become a big company by extrapolating from a broad, sweeping trend of where Web traffic (and consumer data) comes from—from search 10 years ago, to social sharing in the past five years, to what Baptiste now calls “experience.”

“Google let you find it. Facebook let you share it. We let you experience it,” he says. “Through distribution and experience, we’ll get lots of data. You look at what makes a great company. They become a referrer of traffic.”

Part of what he means by “experience” is the visual design and interface by which people want to interact with Web content. The idea is that if OnSwipe can solve that problem more efficiently than others, it will drive more traffic to publishers, and that will pay off for both publishers and OnSwipe in terms of advertising revenue. “Our mission is to power the way the world experiences the Web on touch devices,” Baptiste says.

To that end, the company has been collecting lots of data on how consumers use the OnSwipe platform—things like how they hold the tablet (landscape vs. portrait), how much time they spend on each page, what swiping gestures they use while reading, and what types of content they recommend and share.

Another tidbit that caught my ear: “Search is dying as a source of referral,” Baptiste says. Whether he turns out to be right or not, that point underscores the importance of building a company for where the Web is heading, not where it is.

OnSwipe has grown from five employees to 21 in the past half-year as the team has been gearing up for today’s release. From here on out, look for the company to ramp up to releasing new versions and products every month or so, Baptiste says.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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  • George Lewis

    “Search is dying as a source of referral”

    Yup.

    Notice how quickly Google came out with Search plus your world feature? They need to find a way to integrate the limited amount of social data they have to stay relevant to how the world is going to change over the next few years. The thing about Facebook’s valuation that many people don’t understand is that Facebook’s endgame isn’t just dominating social networking – they’re already at that point. The key thing to understand is that Facebook is going to use this data to expand into search, commerce, communications, identity services, entertainment, and other markets. This is why Facebook is well worth their rumored $100 billion valuation. Many people still dismiss Facebook as a toy, but this is foolish. Just go back and look at how many Super Bowl ads featured Facebook URLs in them, look at how many smaller businesses use the types of services found at http://www.facebookfansreviews.com that do nothing other than promote Facebook pages, look at where Facebook’s IPO is going to take them. To me, this seems like a much larger strategic concern for Google and what they should be devoting their resources to because Facebook is going to be in positions, whether this year or next, to use their social data to compete in search. When that happens, Google is at risk of completely losing their dominance in their one major business. I think that regardless of whether OnSwipe or other companies ultimately dominate, the key thing to take out of this is that Google is in a very precarious position with search over the next few years despite how seemingly invincible they’ve been. Social might actually be the least of their problems too – look at Siri for instance taking off a percentage of valuable local search queries. Google is going to be facing a lot of assaults on its search moat and this should be concerning for them.

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