Genieo is now available for the Mac with a unique approach to managing information overload. The developers are interested in a service that learns your preferred topics, your trusted sources and how you find and read information on the web. Genieo then presents you with content you're certain to like, without any scripting or filtering from you, the user. I spoke with Sol Tzvi, co-founder and CEO of Genieo at Macworld Expo, and she gave me a full run-down of this interesting solution.
Genieo is a client-side solution (there are no servers involved) that relies on what Sol calls "Behavioral Plug-ins." When first run, it installs a plug-in for Safari, though all major Mac OS browsers are supported. From there, all you need to do is browse the Web as usual. As you do, Genieo's algorithm notes several things. Sol assured me that it looks at more than browsing history, but she wouldn't reveal the magic.
Here's the rest of what I can tell you after the jump.
The installation process is simple. Visit Genieo.com and click the download button. A pop-up window will guide you through the process of installing the extension. A couple of options let you set Genieo as your homepage and Google (by Genieo) as your default search. You can also opt to connect Genieo to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Don't balk, this is for much more that spamming your family and friends. More on that later.
Now your customized homepage will appear in your browser, and the fun begins. Even though I had only had Genieo installed for a minute or two, it had already discovered several topics I'm interested in (mostly all Apple products, go figure) and several sites that I read most often. In addition, it listed the sites that typically provide the best content on my preferred topics, friends' birthdays from Facebook and mentions of my favorite topics from Twitter.
The way it handles Twitter is something I like a lot. Instead of regurgitating every tweet from my followers, or worse, spamming them with Genieo tweets from me, it finds tweets from among the great pool that meet my interest criteria. Again, there was no filter or scripting that had to be set up by me. The same is true of Facebook. Instead of redirecting the fire hose of wall updates, etc. to your browser homepage, it presents only the Facebook content that satisfies your preferences.
Privacy is an obvious issue. You might not want Genieo to notice every site you visit, right? Email, bank sites and ... let's say "other private sites" are ignored by Genieo. The Windows version places an "X" on the taskbar item when you browse a private site. Sol assures me that a future update will bring the same visual notification to the Mac. The important thing is that Genieo is ignoring that visit on your Mac, even without the "X." Additionally, since it's a client-side solution, there's no Genieo server monitoring your browsing history.
What about sharing? This is pretty neat, and Sol tells me it will be even better with a future update. To share your favorite stories with friends, click "Your Personal Magazine" in the home page. You're brought to a page with a magazine-style layout featuring your favorite stories from the day. You're free to accept the suggested stories, move them about or swap them out for others. The magazine layout is kind of gimmicky, but it does look nice and offers zero-effort web publishing for those either new to the process or without the time or inclination to set something up manually.
I asked Sol how the idea for Genieo came about. She told me that one day she was using her computer and realized that while cloud-based services knew her well, her own machine did not. She figured that there ought to be something to take care of that, so she went off to build that something. Genieo is it.
What about the iPad and iPhone? The iOS devices are supported, though you'll have to opt into web support first to turn those features on. You can do that from the Genieo home page. Once that's done, navigate to my.genieo.com for a layout customized for the iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. Sol said that a native iOS app is in the works.
Genieo suggests letting two days pass before it fully learns your interests and preferred news sources, and I'm going to let it do just that. So far, I'm happy. While I'm not yet ready to abandon my RSS reader (old habits die hard), I'm compelled by Genieo's approach to taming the fire hose of information. Check it out and see if it fits your habits, too.