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A big update from Zite fixes a lot of user complaints

Mel Martin

I was an early admirer of Zite, the free iOS app that learns what you're interested in and creates a magazine just for you. As Zite got more popular, some changes came in that drove some users wild.

I thought the biggest offenses were the addition of CNN News (CNN owns Zite) and the What's Popular on Zite sections. Many users, myself included, felt that forcing content was unwarranted and unwanted in an app that prided itself for being personalized.

Guess what? Zite has fixed these issues in the new Zite 2.2 version, released today. There is now a software switch that lets you turn those two features off. If you liked CNN News and What's Popular, you can turn them on, but if you don't, you can nuke both features.

That's the kind of responsiveness that is rare in the software business. Zite CEO Mark Johnson and I have had several talks about the Zite feature set over the past months, and he agreed a lot of users weren't too happy with some of the changes. I think having a preference switch is the best of all possible worlds.

There are some other notable new features in this latest Zite, which should be in the App Store as you read this. Topic tags can now be accessed directly from stories. A feature I really like is the ability to view an image gallery from photos in an article. Tap an image, and you get a slide show on a pleasing black background. There are a few other UI tweaks, but regular Zite users won't find anything to complain about.

Gallery: Zite 2.2 | 5 Photos

I've been testing the new Zite for the last week or so. It is a better experience, and it stays focused on what I want to read, rather than shoveling other content to me that I don't want.

There is one leftover I could live without, however: a small "What's featured" box. What's featured generally doesn't resonate with me, but perhaps people like it. I'd be happy to have the ability to switch it off. I'd also love to have Zite available on my Mac. You get hooked using it, and I think it would be great to have it on OS X.

Despite all that, it's really nice to see a company listen to users and make changes, even though it may be in a direction different from the original concept. Even when I didn't like some of the changes Zite made, it was still my favorite personal news-aggregation app. With the changes, I think it is far out in front of the pack, presenting news I want in a pleasing, useful way that learns as you go.

Zite is a universal app for both iPhone and iPad. It is optimized for the iPhone 5 and requires iOS 6 or later.

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