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

“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 Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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