The upgrade includes a friend news ticker, suggestions, a new look and feel, and an Android version. Here’s some background on how we arrived here.
Over on the News With Friends blog we have some news to share about the app we’ve been working on this summer.
The idea is pretty simple. News With Friends is for people to experience news together. Journalism.co.uk called it ”an app that does exactly what it says on the tin”.
The app is based on a tool Graham built way back when we started the company two years ago — a data explorer that showed what stories news publishers think are important. And today’s upgrade applies ideas we formed while at The Guardian experimenting with social graphs and news back in 2011.
Back then Graham was working on something called Social Guardian which showed what your friends were reading in realtime. It became the inspiration for The Guardian’s official foray into social news on Facebook.
At the same time I was looking at macro trends for news media and identifying patterns that could help news businesses. I thought generative networks might hold the key to a better future for news.
The journey from there to News With Friends 2.0 today looks nothing like a straight line, and it surely has a lot of loops and twists still ahead. But we’ve arrived at something that seems pretty interesting.
The technology that made this app possible is amazing. React-native, GraphQL, Elasticsearch and Firebase are all really well suited for what we’re trying to do with News With Friends. I still can’t believe we were able to get the Android version up and running in a day.
That said, there’s a lot to do still. We want to improve the content, the social actions and the invitation/signup flows. We want to make a web version. And we haven’t thought through the advertising model that will support it yet.
But hopefully this version will make sense to everyone and that people will enjoy sharing the news experience together with their friends — like we’ve done in the past with water cooler moments in front of the TV, radio, and newspapers.Those water cooler moments for news haven’t happened in quite the same way on our phones… yet.
When news started declining on Facebook last summer and then they officially deprioritized news we felt like a big gap suddenly opened up. It’s hard to understand why news isn’t a core proposition for platforms like Facebook, but maybe that’s good news for people who want news to be THE driver of a social platform rather than a sideshow.