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Similar to the way Google Reader’s ‘Play‘ function works, but even more stripped-down, it displays one story at a time from today’s edition of the paper. You can flip between stories using on-screen controls that disappear when you don’t need them or via keyboard shortcuts.
There’s no navigation; you have no choice but to read the articles in the order they’re presented. While that may seem like a step backwards, it recreates the simplicity of a newspaper and turns the traditional online news experience on its head. It doesn’t look great in screenshots but the experience is what it’s all about.
Writing on his blog, developer Phil Gyford describes the thinking behind the site. He says he wants to remove the friction, readability and ‘finishability’ of news articles:
“I wanted something with reduced friction. There should be as few difficult decisions as possible, nothing harder than “shall I turn the page?”. I wanted to avoid having to make a big decision before reading an article. It should be as quick and effortless as possible, as close to how easy it is to start reading an article in a newspaper.
This meant, for me, ditching any kind of conventional news website front page, or contents page. No lists of headlines, no decisions about which article to visit.”
This philosophy has resulted in a great app that (we can imagine, we don’t have one to hand) looks particularly beautiful on an iPad.
The Guardian is monetising its API by entering into commercial deals with developers who use their content, although Today’s Guardian is currently completely free. If innovation like this continues, The Guardian’s decision to open up its news content via an API instead of hide it behind a paywall could prove a winner.