It’s tempting to compare Clipboard, a new service that’s launching today, to Pinterest. Actually, it’s irresistible: Clipboard, like Pinterest, lets you collect interesting tidbits from all over the web, then share them in “boards” which piece together all the tidbits on one page. And Clipboard, unlike Pinterest, lets you share web content of all sorts: images, videos, text and more, preserving the original layout and formatting.
But Clipboard isn’t just a Pinterest variant. It’s also a way to save parts of the web for later reference without ever sharing them with anyone else — something I’ve been doing lately with Evernote — and therefore a useful research tool as much as an exercise in social networking.
You save stuff to Clipboard by using a special bookmark (or a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox) which lets you hover your mouse on any web page and highlight either the entire page or part of it, such as an image, a snippet of text, a video, or a combination thereof. Once the elements you want are highlighted, you click. Clipboard then saves them to your Clipboard, allowing you to tag it and either keep it private, share it with other members or publish it so it’s completely public.
When you clip text and images, Clipboard makes a copy, so they’re preserved even if the original web page changes or vanishes. For content such as videos and Flash elements, it embeds the original version rather than trying to clone it.
(How will publishers feel about Clipboard copying their articles and photos onto its own servers, sans any original advertising? Well…I’m not sure. But the company’s founder, Gary Flake, told me that it, like YouTube, will remove items when copyright holders request a takedown. It’s also working on a Clipboard button which publishers will be able to add to their pages, giving them the ability to help visitors clip specific elements, such as a movie listing.)
You can comment on publicly clipped items, like them, reclip them onto your own Clipboard and share them to Facebook and Twitter. You can also search for tags and text within clips, and can follow other users. If the service takes off, it could become a pretty engaging way to learn, share and generally be social around any topic. Here, for instance, is a public Clipboard that’s all about The Avengers, and here’s one about the president of the United States.
Clipboard’s core technology — the ability to grab chunks of any web page, detach them from the original site and preserve them in their original form — is so ambitious that it’s a wonder that it works at all. And truth to tell, I found that it worked well most of the time, but not all of the time. When I tried to save a Google Map, I got a CAPTCHA instead, and an NYTimes.com story lost its first paragraph. With any luck, the service will be able to reduce the number of glitchy clips over time; in other respects, it’s already polished, inviting and full of potential.
The Clipboard folks are finishing up work on a mobile-friendly version of the service. (I found that browsing Clipboards on my iPad worked okay, but there’s no way to save new items from Safari.) I’m going to try using it to preserve web articles I’ll need later — and as long as I’m at it, I’m going to share them with the world.
If you give Clipboard a test drive, let us know what you think.