Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?

Prismatic joins interests and social networking

The former news aggregation app for iOS has transformed itself into a social network centered on interests rather than people.

2 min read
Prismatic breaks down interests into different categories and associates people with their interests. Prismatic iPhone screenshots

Prismatic is breaking into the social networking game. In its previous incarnation, the iOS app focused on crawling the Internet and social feeds to deliver fresh content relevant to peoples' interests. With the new version, Prismatic has added a social dimension, similar to Twitter, which allows users to follow people within a topic area and recirculate content around the "interest" network.

Prismatic CEO Bradford Cross. Bradford Cross

"The new product is completely different, moving from news to social," said Prismatic CEO Bradford Cross. "It's more like Twitter and Facebook with profiles, activity feeds, search and explore. Each story has an explanation for why the story is there, and you see the topic and people connected to you. The difference from the other social networks is that we have interests as the focal point."

Cross said that by adapting the user interface common to existing social networking apps, onboarding people to the updated service will be easier. "We don't need to create any weird new actions," Cross said. "Now we are in the second generation of social. People are connected up, so that is less of a raw problem. But the relevance problem still needs to be addressed. That is what we have focused on from the beginning."

Prismatic crawls the web and social sites, processing 5 million new stories every day, Cross said. It offers more than 10,000 interests that users can follow.

"I have 200 different interests I follow, and I am following 500 people," Cross said. "My feed is amazingly diverse because of the super-rich relevance model that understands what I am interested in. It's able to surface the content aligned with my interests without creating a list or group, without having to do the work of creating a Twitter list or Pinterest feed, for example."

With its content analysis engine and new social dimension, Prismatic puts itself in the group of content discovery engines, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Flipboard, Zite and LinkedIn Pulse. "This is our bet. We may not win you over because Prismatic has higher relevance for tech news than Twitter. But if you are into fixing up an old motorcycle, you will be more satisfied," Cross said.

Currently Prismatic is only available for iOS devices. The company received $15 million in venture capital at the end of 2012.