Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, who left Facebook in September 2018 a few years after the acquisition of their company announcing they were going to “take some time to explore their curiosity and creativity again”, are back, this time with an app, Artifact, designed for reading news.
Apart from the interest in the latest adventure of two founders who have shown great judgment and created an app that remains popular many years after its creation, Artifact is interesting for its choice of field: news reading, a hugely important habit that seems, unfortunately for society as a whole, to be losing relevance for younger generations and for many people who choose to simply “let the news find them” or “be filtered” through their social networks.
Artifact can now be downloaded from app stores after a period in closed beta. After downloading, it asks the user to choose ten news topics from a list, to also enter the media in which they have subscriptions to privilege them in the selection, and goes on to present a personalized list or feed of news in which it asks the user to select those that interest them to shape their recommendations and refine it progressively through the application of machine learning. The algorithm contains a personal part based on the articles — from the reading or selection of the first twenty-five — that users read or pass to their reading list, and another social part based on what is read by those they invite or connect with through the app, and with a mark that points out the articles they have read. In addition, it allows other social features such as seeing the most read in your network, personal analytics to see what topics or what media you read more, and during reading it also allows you to discard media you do not want.
In principle it is not necessary to identify yourself to use the application, although it offers the possibility of entering your phone number, which is immediately verified by SMS, in case you want your profile and preferences to be stored for use from other devices.
An interesting app, and one that should be given a trial run if only for its founders’ track record, but one that faces a fundamental challenge: to what extent will it manage to create a habit in users who, at least apparently, tend to read less and less news and focus on short videos and easily digestible formats. My news reading habits are very well established with separate functionalities (Feedly as a feed reader and Refind as an algorithmic recommendation engine) and I find it difficult to think that I will change them overnight, but that doesn’t mean I won’t spend some time examining the pros and cons of Artifact. I’ll keep you posted.
This post was previously published on Enrique Dans’ blog.
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