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Web-clipping service Clipboard debuts new look

The click-and-save service for Web sites changes its look, letting users group items in tiles rather than in a sequential list, in order to help them navigate their snips more easily.

Clipboard's new tile interface Clipboard; screenshot by Jay Greene/CNET

Clipboard, the Seattle-area startup led by former Microsoft technical fellow Gary Flake, just rolled out a new look for its Web clipping service.

The service now lets users group the various items they've clipped from around the Web into tiles, rather than the sequential list format that's common to social network sites such as Facebook and Google+. Users can still view their items in a list. But the new tile interface gives users the choice to see more clips on their screen than they previously could.

"It's really about how you interact with the clips," Flake said.

Clipboard's Gary Flake

The service lets users collect various snippets--Flake calls them bookmarklets--from around the Web and keep them in one spot. So when someone is doing investment research, for example, they can grab various articles about a particular company, as well a stock chart from Google Finance, or tweets that mention the company by name. All that information can be saved in one spot on Clipboard. And the links remain dynamic, so the stock table will update automatically and the Twitter feed will re-populate with the latest chatter.

"A clip is rich enough to be worth fussing over and small enough to have in a collection," Flake said.

The new interface makes it easier to find relevant information. Clipboard users can now snip small items that then take up a tiny block-size chunk of their Clipboard home page. If the items is more important, they can grab a larger piece of it and it will occupy a larger tile, drawing more attention.

Flake left Microsoft a year ago after the company axed Live Labs, the research arm for its Internet business that he led. At Microsoft, Live Labs tinkered with a similar idea, creating Thumbtack, which lets users grab chunks of information from Web pages and store it in the cloud.

Prior to joining Microsoft in 2005, Flake founded Yahoo Research Labs. Before that, he served as Overture's chief science officer.

Shortly after leaving Microsoft, Flake turned to Clipboard. In April, the company filed a document with the Securities and Exchange Commission, noting that it raised nearly $1.4 million. Though the document didn't disclose investors, TechCrunch recently reported that the company is backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Silicon Valley angel investor Ron Conway, and former Sling chief executive Blake Krikorian, among others.

Clipboard shares some similarities with such services as Evernote, Delicious, and Pinterest. But Clipboard is a fairly lightweight service, making it easy to snip relevant bits of information and stash it for later viewing.

To use the service, Web surfers first install "The Clipper" on their browser bookmark bar. When they hit a site worthy of clipping, they activate The Clipper, which temporarily changes the behavior of their mouse. Moving the mouse highlights different regions of the page. When they settle upon the selection they want clipped, they simply click their mouse. That opens a dialog box that asks users to confirm that they want to selection added to their Clipboard home page.

On the home page, users can group their clips by category, saving some as stock picks and other as vacation ideas, for example. And they can share their clips to the public, to specific people they designate, or they can keep them private.

Clipboard is only available by invitation for now, though CNET users can gain access by clicking on this promotional page.

The Clipboard service is free. Flake wants to build the service before he figures out how to monetize it.

That said, he thinks the company could make the service ad-supported, creating something of a micro-blogging platform where users could add snips from the Web that might interest their followers. What's more, Clipboard offers detailed looks into exactly where users click on specific sites. That information could be relevant to some Web sites, creating an opportunity for Clipboard to sell analytic software to those sites.

And Clipboard might someday sell a subscriptions to groups wanting to use the service. So a company, for example, could someday pay to set up a private Clipboard, curating content for employees and establishing task-specific groups where workers can collaborate.

"I don't think we have to have the perfect answer to this right away," Flake said.

Here's a video explaining Clipboard, shot prior to the new tile-based interface's debut.