The Internet’s got a cornucopia of tools for organizing the crap we find and want to bookmark online. Too many, really. We collect articles using Instapaper. We store pictures on Flickr. We favor tweets on Twitter. It’s like keeping meticulous file cabinets, but spreading them out in every room in the house. Gimme Bar, a beta app, tries to offer a corrective by letting us grab text, images, and videos from the web, then store them in a single place. It’s a virtual bulletin board for everything. The designers, Brooklyn-based Fictive Kin, liken it winkingly to "an Internet ShamWow." Also: "The 5th greatest invention of all time.""I was frustrated with bookmarks," Fictive Kin’s Cameron Koczon tells Co.Design. "I never liked the idea of finding my way back to things because they were often gone or I couldn’t remember which bit of the page I had wanted to remember. It just made more sense to keep the things I liked with me. Other times I would find an image on Tumblr or FFFFound and by the time it got in front of me it had been more or less scrubbed of all attribution."
Gimme Bar tackles these problems by featuring content both with, and independent of, its original link. Tina Roth Eisenberg of the cultishly popular design blog SwissMiss describes it as "booksaving"; we like to think of it as bookmarking on steroids.
Say you’re only interested in a snippet of one of Gladwell’s 10,000-word New Yorker treatises. With a regular old bookmark, you have to return to the web page, then scroll through 10,000 words to find what you’re looking for. (And that’s assuming the New Yorker hasn’t gone and stashed the story behind a paywall.) Gimme Bar lets you extract the snippet by dragging it into a Gimme Bar box at the bottom of the page. You give it a description, douse it with hashtags if need be, and add it to a "collection," then it saves instantly to your archive so you can access it whenever and wherever. If for some reason you want to go back to the original url, it saves that, too.
From there, the content is dead simple to find. Items are arranged pictorially in a spic-and-span tile format. Click an image, and the item springs into full view, complete with the old link and buttons for sharing via Facebook, Twitter, and so on. The benefits of a tile format are well known by now: It works great across multiple platforms, whether an smartphone, a tablet or a desktop computer. In this case, it’s also perfectly aligned with the creative processes of visually minded types. What do designers, artists, and other creative folks use the Internet for but to collect stuff for inspiration? Gimme Bar frees them to create a nearly identical virtual version of their ubiquitous pin-up boards. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that when it came time to test the app, Fictive Kin unveiled a beta version on SwissMiss for all its design-minded readers to try out for free. A bonus: Gimme Bar lets users back up everything, except videos, to Dropbox. As the film above says: "This is actual content. And it’s yours, forever."
Which sounds almost too good to be true: Anyone else smell copyright problems? "We’ve thoroughly considered the possible legal issues, including copyright infringement, and we’re pretty confident that Gimme Bar is on the right side of the law," Koczon says, pointing out that each asset page includes a link for content owners to notify Gimme Bar of copyright issues. "It’s also worth noting that with any web browser, a user can already copy and paste text, drag images into folders, and save full web pages," he says. "In this sense, Gimme Bar isn’t making copyright infringement any easier for users. The main difference with Gimme Bar is that you keep the attribution of where that content came from (which we see as a benefit for the content owners). You also can’t change that original source, which may discourage some users from grabbing content they shouldn’t."Still, Gimme Bar lifts content from its home base. Take Gladwell away from the New Yorker, and that means fewer eyeballs on the New Yorker’s website, even if the original url tags along. And since publishers need ad revenue to stay afloat and advertisers always want more eyeballs, you can see how publishers would balk at an app that grabs their content then goes and makes it ridiculously easy to access somewhere else.
Ultimately, Koczon envisions a scenario in which ads would be every bit as peripatetic as the stuff they’re meant to promote. "If attribution can travel with content, why not monetization?" he wrote on A List Apart last April. "RSS feeds have set some precedent for ads following content into other contexts. We can push this model further by enabling ads to travel alongside individual pieces of content and enabling content creators to be compensated whether that content is viewed on their site or somewhere else on the web." An app that could help bolster the funding mechanism of online publishing? Maybe it really is the fifth greatest invention of all time.
[Top image by Liz West]