Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Flippin’ ‘eck: Google Fast Flip isn’t fast, doesn’t flip

Google has released details of another product still in the lab – Fast Flip.

You’ve probably seen the way most magazines try to create online versions of themselves. Cue interactive page turning, fuzzy layouts and clumsy navigation.

Fast Flip promises to aggregate online magazine content into searchable archives that speed up the process. “What we need… is a way to flip through articles really fast without unnatural delays, just as we can in print,” enthuses the Google Blog.

Google has partnered with around 40 content partners (including The New York Times, FastCompany and Newsweek) during the trial phase. It has also designed a mobile version for Fast Flipping on the move. (But only, of course, if you’re geeky enough to have an or Android- or Apple-powered phone.)

I’ve tried Fast Flip and can confidently report that you get interactive page turning, fuzzy layouts and clumsy navigation. Unsurprisingly, reading print content in a web browser doesn’t work, and Fast Flip redirects you to a website as soon as it possibly can. So what’s the point?

When Google releases something from its Google Labs development arm, it’s normally about timing than anything else. There are hundreds of projects on the go simultaneously, so choosing when to make them public is often more about PR than sharing a technological breakthrough.

Fast Flip has found itself being heralded by the press as the saviour of the ‘struggling’ news industry. Not only has it found a way to deliver print content to our beloved computers, it will probably being able to monetise it too thanks to Google’s advertising and payments engine. Hooray! Print isn’t dead! Its future is online!

I’m sure this has nothing whatsoever to do with the Wall Street Journal’s Editor-in-Chief Robert Thomson calling news aggregators "parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the internet", or Rupert Murdoch’s plans to charge for online news content next year.