A year ago, as the Arab Spring rebellions were raging, Ramy Adeeb was desperately trying to keep up to date with developments in his native Egypt, and to share the best articles he could find with friends.
“I could share links of Facebook or Twitter, but they quickly got lost in the stream,” he recalls. “There was no permanence and no structure there. There was the need for a better way.”
That’s when the idea for Snip.it was born, which Adeeb first conceived as a sort of online scrapbook, but which has since evolved into something more like an in-depth social network built around topics of mutual interest.
Since soft-launching late last fall, Snip.it has attracted some 10,000 users, who have posted 100,000 snips about topics ranging from health & wellness (shown above) to politics, science, photography, food & drink, fashion, and LOLs.
“These snips are not based on images, like Pinterest, but on the content,” says Adeeb. “We’re all about the article.”
Snippers typically add a brief comment explaining why they’ve snipped a particular piece, which might come from mainstream sources like CNN, BBC or Al Jazeera, or from lesser-known journals and sites out along the Long Tail.
And the company has recently added comments, which people following that topic use to interact with the person curating the topic.
"At Snip.it, you don’t follow a person so much as you subscribe to that person’s topic," explains Adeeb. “It’s the human curation model. We find that people know their topics very well. And the diversity of sources they surface is at the heart of the value we’re trying to provide.”
Editor Jennifer Pollock, a former colleague at 7x7.com who now works at Snip.it, adds “You are basically following a person’s filter on your interest.”
The service started in English but is now available in 14 languages, including Japanese, Arabic, Portuguese, and Spanish.
Since Pollock joined the team, Snip.it has become noticeably more journalistic in format. There is now an “In Depth” option at the top of the page, with trending topics like (this week) March Madness, Kony 2012, and Santorum vs. Romney.
Rather than serving as a breaking news site, however, Snip.it reminds me somewhat of NPR – a thoughtful source of ongoing discussion in more depth about important issues of the day.
The content is also more global in nature than what most US-based sites provide, which parallels the audience–it's about 40-percent based overseas.
Snip.it also does not consider popularity when surfacing content; instead it gauges overall engagement factors, as well as the quality of the curator’s choices. This careful, human-led effort at setting the tone seems to be yielding so far a more reasoned and civil level of commentary than might otherwise be the case.
The product works well and looks good on an iPad. Adeeb, a former Khosla Ventures partner has attracted blue-ribbon funders and a staff of 8. One of the next features they will be launching is topic "communities."