Summing Up The News On Your iPhone
November 3, 2012

Teenage App Developer Sees iPhone As The Future Of News

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Part of what makes the iPhone great is the way in which it inspires people to invent and innovate. The ecosystem has a great balance of wide open possibilities inside some very strict guidelines which nurtures this kind of invention. Take, for instance, Nick D´Aloisio, a 17-year old student from London who decided the iPhone could be used in a much better way to take in news stories. So, after taking some time off from school and raising more than $1 million from investors, D´Aloisio has released Summly, an app which summarizes top news stories, making them easy to digest.

In an interview with BBC News, D´Aloisio said he had the idea for Summly as he was conducting research for school and found that getting bogged down in long articles distracted him. Summly uses an algorithm to take out key parts in a story and display them as a nice block of text. The reader should be able to walk away from the summarized article with just enough information to “sound clever at a dinner party,” says D´Aloisio.

"I'm just frustrated with all the aggregators and apps that, to be honest, that's just taking this full content and shoving it down your throat," said the 17-year old app developer, saying his app provides just enough information in a personalized way.

Summly hasn´t always been named thusly, however. When D´Aloisio first packaged this algorithm, it was known as Trimit. The founder and chairman of Horizon Ventures, Li Ka-shing, saw Trimit and decided to invest $250,000 into D´Aloisio´s vision. Trimit then became Summly and attracted even more high-profile investors, including Ashton Kutcher, Yoko Ono and Zynga´s CEO Mark Pincus. D´Aloisio and Summly are now backed by $1 million.

The original plan would have had D´Aloisio expand Summly to other mobile operating systems and even the desktop. The young app developer changed his mind later, however, noting that the news reader is a rapidly changing space and the iPhone is the best platform to be writing for these days.

"We worked hard on an interface that looks like nothing else on iPhone," said D´Aloisio in his BBC interview.

"We merged algorithm with beautiful design. It's summarizing thousands of articles every minute."

Currently, the iOS-only app is available on the Apple App Store for free. The teenager mentions, however, that he´d like to one day open up a paid version of the app as well as charge for the use of Summly´s APIs. With these APIs, publishers could plug in Summly summaries right into their site, rather than have readers find the article through the app.

"Traditionally publishers have been confined to a paywall system," he said. "You can either give away the headline or the full article. But we can really sell the summary level."

D´Aloisio has taken some time away from school to focus on the app and his new business, though he says he plans to finish and attend University someday.

"I want to, for as long as I can, stay with the company as a founder, but at the end of the day I will have to go back to school all day.”