Summly, the news app

Summly app generates headline news for London teenager

A smartphone app, written by a British teenager, has soared to number nine in Apple's app store just two hours after its release in the US.

Nick D'Aloisio, from Wimbledon (London), took time off school to develop the Summly smartphone app after being inspired by inefficient searches while revising for GCSE examinations.

The app was designed by the 17-year-old in his bedroom and has received more than $1m in funding from investors.

There have been celebrity and corporate endorsement too, as enthusiasts include Stephen Fry, Tech City CEO Joanna Shields and Newscorp owner Rupert Murdoch back it.

Following in the footsteps of precocious programming prodigies such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft’s Bill Gates, D’Aloisio wrote the original algorithm from the inspiration of exam revision having to prioritise time efficiency and bite-size information.

Mr. D’Aloisio noticed that not only his revision utilised this easy-to-digest format but current trends in information digestion in general, suggesting: "We can really become the de-facto format for news on mobile. People are not scrolling through 1,000-word articles - they want snack-sized information."

The algorithm behind Summly, which is implemented in less than a second, is an updated version of the beta app ‘TrimIt’, also developed by Mr. D’Aloisio, and Summly is built around the advanced technique of machine learning programming. The success of TrimIt inspired Horizons Ventures to invest in Summly.

Summly provides content summarisation of searches, web-page contents as well as using Summly to summarise URL’s embedded in other websites: Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. Mr D’Aloisio aims to provide further summarisation application to e-mail, e-Books, as well as news aggregation sites but primary use of the app comes from iPhone users summarising news articles.

Reviewers, however, have initially described the app as "confusing." Oliver Devereux on the app store's review page claimed that the navigation of the app was “unclear” and others suggested it was "quite unintuitive."

Despite this, the app is still rating an average score of four out of five possible stars from app-store users.

Stylistically the app attempts to combine the technological backdrop to the user interface: "We worked hard on an interface that looks like nothing else on iPhone," said Mr D’Aloisio during a BBC interview. "We merged algorithm with beautiful design. It's summarising thousands of articles every minute."

Currently Mr D'Aloisio has appointed Bart Swanson, the overseer of the roll-out of retailer Amazon in Europe, to chair the company behind Summly.

"I see big visions for the company longer term," said Mr D’Aloisio and in the longer-term he would like to see users make micro-payments in order to read some stories in full should they choose to view the entire article.

"Traditionally publishers have been confined to a paywall system," he said. "You can either give away the headline or the full article. But we can really sell the summary level."

Mr D'Aloisio plans to finish his school-days and eventually attend university, but remain involved in the company. "I'm going to do my best to stay, I'm the founder and it's my vision and I want to see that through," he said.

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