The Internet is a big fat waste of time.
Sure, there are some genuinely useful and enjoyable parts here and there, but mostly it is a merciless time-suck.
In an Internet Evolution chat back in May, community editor Kim Davis commented to me, "If I had millions [of dollars,] I would pay people to use the Internet for me and just print out the good bits for me to read by the pool."
A relatively new iOS app may help make Kim's dream come true, and he won't even need millions of dollars -- just an iPhone.
On Tuesday, the London developer Nick D'Aloisio released a new search app called Summly. It doesn't work like Google or other keyword-based applications. Instead, Summly uses specially developed algorithms and machine learning to summarize Web pages, displaying "the good bits" right on your iPhone or iPad while you browse.
What's more, Summly uses sentiment analysis to determine what kind of Web page it is looking at -- and, hence, which of its advanced algorithms to employ. (For instance, a "technology article" will be summarized using a "technology" algorithm.)
It seems to work pretty well, too. Independent MIT researchers have determined that Summly's technology outperforms the "highest academically published results" by 30 percent. Additionally, because Summly is language dependent, it works in any language (although it does offer optimization for several specific languages).
Though Summly is limited to iOS devices presently, D'Aloisio recently confirmed that an Android version will be available within the next few months, as will a Web-based version.
Summly may well be the Internet's ever-elusive next big thing. In the high-speed, low-patience age of Wikipedia, folksonomies, and the Social Web, identifying original sources has become far less important to most Web users than efficiently finding and organizing the content itself (a pain point other startups have tried to solve). Remarks D'Aloisio: "Hyperlinks arenít effective anymore. Itís information overload."
Summly has its origins in an earlier Web summarization app by D'Aloisio, Trimit. That app caught the attention of the Hong Kong venture capitalist (and 11th-richest person in the world) Li Ka Shing, who invested in D'Aloisio's company. From there, Summly was born.
Perhaps more impressive than Summly itself, however, is its creator. D'Aloisio is only 16 years old.
Having already been hailed as "the Internet's newest boy genius," D'Aloisio is reminiscent of another plucky young tech entrepreneur, Mark Zuckerberg (who was 20 when he founded Facebook) -- and we all know how things turned out for him (well, so far, anyway).
Like Zuckerberg, D'Aloisio may have the chops to be considered serious competition for major online services like Google and Twitter. The observation is apparently not lost on D'Aloisio, who declares, "Google was designed 10-15 years ago. It needs to change. Thereís too much content on the Web."
Frankly, he's right. The nature of the Web, combined with the massive amount of text it contains, has dumbed down Internet users and shortened their attention spans. The Internet at once overwhelms and confuses -- and its users are ripe for misleading. It cries out for high-quality executive summaries.
Summly solves this important pain point, representing the next big thing in search technology and data analytics. The world of the Web has pretty much grown out of the "information aggregation" stage. We are now in the "information curation" stage. We have the information. It's just a matter of organizing, understanding, and managing it.
In other words, it's time to get to the good bits.
(Here's the tl;dr version: Summly not only summarizes the Web, but may also revolutionize it.)
ó Joe Stanganelli is a writer, attorney, and communications consultant. He is also principal and founding attorney of Beacon Hill Law in Boston. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeStanganelli.