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Flipboard aims for more users with jump to the Web

The popular news app isn't just for touchscreens anymore -- its new Web-based version makes it possible to catch up on your favorite topics from any device.

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Flipboard

Popular mobile news app Flipboard has finally made the jump to the Web with a website you can access from any browser.

Starting today at flipboard.com, you can pick topics and read stories in a format optimized for the desktop, but with that magazine feel that's made the apps so successful on smartphones and tablets. With the addition of the website, it's now possible to track stories all day as Flipboard syncs across all your devices.

Flipboard already had 40 million users per month on mobile ( iOS | Android ), but that number is likely to grow now that there's a more convenient way to try it out.

A colorful news reading experience

Late last week, Flipboard CEO Mike McCue came by CNET's offices in San Francisco to give us a look at Flipboard on the Web.

What already made Flipboard stand out on mobile was the way it laid out content like a magazine. Physically swiping the page on your tablet or smartphone showed a page-turning animation, letting you "flip" through stories and topics.

Most desktops don't have touchscreens, so you won't have that flipping action on the Web, but that's fine because the new website makes the content extremely accessible for mouse and keyboard setups. For example, image-heavy sources such as National Geographic give you high-res images that take up the width of the page, with captions and headlines that stay out of the way of the image content. It uses a parallax effect that makes transitioning to large images a smooth experience as you scroll down the page. The website also gives you a variety of layouts for stories to keep it visually interesting as you browse headlines.

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A varied layout makes your favorite topics look like a magazine. Flipboard

Diving in

To get started, you register with an email and password, then pick at least seven topics you're interested in. As you add topics, related topics will pop up, letting you create a reading experience customized to you. The next time you open Flipboard you'll be greeted with the latest news from all your favorite topics. You have the option to search for available topics, or you can just organically collect them by clicking the topic button for a story you're reading.

As an example you might be reading a story about Android phones, but it might be under the Smartphones topic. Clicking the Smartphones button will add it to your list of topics so you'll get more stories about smartphones in the future.

Great for social networks

In addition to reading the headlines and stories from your chosen news sources, you also can browse social networks, and it's often a better experience than going to the dedicated sites. Flipboard lets you connect your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts and then displays posts, tweets and images along with the stories from your regular news sources.

What makes it a great experience is that you'll see the tweet and an associated image on the same screen, and you can do things like reply to a tweet, favorite or retweet straight from the app without going to Twitter. You'll also see posts from your friends on Facebook, with their included vacation photo as an example. In other words, Flipboard becomes more than just a place to see the news, but also a place to keep up with social networks, all from the same app.

Making it personal

One of the features added in recent updates was the ability to create your own magazines. You start with a title and an optional description, then decide if you'll make your magazine public so people can follow and comment on your stories.

Next you can browse stories to add them to your magazine with a couple of clicks. Today there are 15 million magazines on Flipboard created by readers on just about every subject imaginable. And Flipboard helps people discover curators and content by recommending related magazines as you explore.

A major turning point

The addition of the Flipboard website marks a major turning point for the company because it will mean millions of desktop users now have access to what was only a mobile app before. I've been a fan of the app for a long time, and if Flipboard can deliver a similar experience on the Web, it is likely to do well because more people will be able to access content throughout the day.

When you add in how well it handles social sites, Flipboard could become your main app for keeping up with world news along with news, tweets and posts from your friends. And If Flipboard has its way, now you'll be able to use the website as your news and social hub on the desktop, with a consistent and beautiful reading experience across all your devices.