The team of data scientists at Futureful have just released a new app, dubbed Random, that's designed to do just that - serve you content in a random (but meaningful) way. Our readers probably remember Futureful for the buzz they built up in Helsinki since 2011 after receiving investment from Skype co-founder Janus Friis and launching their first content discovery app, Futureful.
"We had our kind of science project going on the past few years, and we wanted a new brand to really reflect what the changes were," Marko Anderson, co-founder and CEO of Random tells us.
I downloaded Random and first clicked on the suggested topic, Brooklyn, where I read a nice article about the coffee scene there. Then going back to the random screen it had somewhat random topics (like "fail") listed, as well at a strikingly similar topic, Greenpoint, a neighborhood in Brooklyn. I have a friend living there, so I thought I would see what's happening there. It was a kind of funny essay about how if you live in Greenpoint, you might be part of the lost generation that didn't want to take part in the failed institutions built up by capitalism. It's not the type of article I find myself reading, but I enjoyed it before I moved onto the next one, so I suppose Random did its job.
The quick content discovery feels very much like Futureful, which instead of random topics in blue boxes had random topics in purple bubbles, which you could combine to put together "coffee" and "WWII" for instance to find content. Random takes that combination feature out, and is now more focused on this more frictionless experience.
The app's algorithims throw a few topics at you as a starting point, and learn from whatever you click on next (or whatever you don't look at). Like the Brooklyn-then-Greenpoint dynamic, Random learns from what you're interested in, but still tries to throw some random stuff at you. "We're trying to strike the balance between relevancy and surprise," says Anderson.
Investor in Futureful and Skype co-founder Janus Friis writes on Medium that he sees Random as the next evolution of how we find content on the web. To paraphrase him, Friis says that in the beginning of the web we first used a portal, which was our single entry point to the web. Then came search, which allowed us to find whatever we want.
"And yet, with all these tools that we use to explore, it often feels all too static, too narrow, too prescribed. We end up using the same sites to see the same things — while the variety of things to discover online explodes, we guide ourselves into a narrow, familiar selection," writes Friis.
For monetization Anderson says that advertising always comes up but they're not moving into that area fast. Instead they're focused on the user experience.
At launch, Random is still a little tough to find in the app store, so head on over to ArcticStartup on your iOS device and click on this link.