Zite is Flipping out

Today is an exciting day: Zite is spinning out from CNN and joining forces with Flipboard. Together, we’re going to build the most wonderful place to read news that has ever existed.

Ali Davar and I founded a company in 2005 called Worio whose mission was help people find information they weren’t getting through friends, social media, or search. Our plan was to deploy sophisticated machine learning techniques to understand people and content to build a better search engine. A short six years later, we released a news app for the iPad called Zite. The specifics were different from what we imagined in 2005, but the vision remained intact: not to “filter” news, not to save people time skimming headlines, but to understand them well enough to find that one article from an obscure blogger about medieval knitting they didn’t know existed and would have never have otherwise found, but is exactly what they were looking for.

Flipboard has been linked with our history since the moment we decided to build a news product. What they were able to accomplish on the barely-capable hardware of the first-gen iPad amazed us and inspired us to build Zite exclusively for the iPad (a decision that seemed crazier then than it would now). When we launched people instantly wondered if we were a “Flipboard killer”, and I’ve had to answer more questions about being in their shadow in the last three years than I care to count. At times, I found the comparison frustrating: Zite’s focus was on topics, while Flipboard was mostly about publications; Flipboard was a reader for social media but Zite tried hardest to find articles you couldn’t find on your Twitter feed. The two products look superficially similar but couldn’t be more different under the hood.

I should have realized that the comparison kept coming up because both companies share the same vision. As I have gotten to know the folks behind Flipboard, I’ve met a group of people whose commitment to building an amazing news reading experience rivals our own. We’re both trying to help people discover great content that feels like it was hand-picked just for them. We’re both dissatisfied with a world where ads force an article to be the second-class citizen on the screen. We both refuse to accept that monetization must be antagonistic to content.

Our goals are the same, and if our methods are different, that is not a source of weakness but of strength: Flipboard has an impressive curation team, unrivalled publisher network, and incredible scale. Zite has world-class recommendations technology and expertise in topic-based discovery. Both companies have amazing design and mobile engineering talent. I’m absolutely convinced that joining forces with Flipboard is the right next step in achieving the vision we started with back in 2005.

I don’t want this to be the type of acquisition announcement that glosses over all bad news, and there is some: the Zite app is not going to be around forever. Our goal is to get the things that are great about Zite into Flipboard before shutting it down. We will also build a way for you to transition your data from Zite into Flipboard. Until then (for six months at a minimum), we will continue supporting Zite. Our users mean the world to us; after all, what Flipboard saw in us, you saw first. We hope you come with us and help us shape the future of news.

I’m incredibly proud of the team for what they’ve accomplished in building Zite the last nine years, and we are all committed to creating something ever better at Flipboard. I’m not going to lie: I feel a tinge of nervous excitement when I think what we will build together.

-Mike Klaas
Co-founder and CTO

Read how Flipboard views the acquisition.

Read our CEO Mark Johnson‘s take.

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