While the re-creation is based on the source HTML and CSS that loads the original page, the algorithm has to figure out how to transform the clip into something self-contained. It rewrites the HTML and CSS so that the clip will look and function the same way, even separated from its original surroundings. It also prevents the clip from clashing with other clips that the user might have stored. That analysis isn’t simple, and it has to happen quickly, Flake says. “Browsers three years ago could not have handled the algorithm.”
Clipboard tries to be smart at guessing what pieces a user might want to preserve. The application also analyzes a page to determine blocks that a person is likely to want to keep. Although it’s possible that in the future Web pages could add pointers that indicate how content would be best divided, the application is designed to work without help.
Once users save content, Clipboard gives them many options for what to do with it. The site’s ability to preserve function leads to some interesting use cases. Flake demonstrated that he and his wife were able to save online mortgage calculators in mid-operation, allowing the couple to communicate about the parameters and tweak as they went. Others have used the service to create online portfolios, clipping samples of Web pages that show their design and coding work.
“In no way does Clipboard impose upon you about what you should be clipping,” Flake says. People can use the service to save material for themselves, he says, doing research or just keeping track of interesting things. They can communicate back and forth about clips by using a convention popularized on Twitter—an “@” sign sends a clip to another Clipboard user. The service also makes it easy to share clips through e-mail or social networks. And users can decide to make their clippings public.
Now, Flake says, the site is slowly opening its doors to a larger community while continuing to build more ways for users to analyze and use the items they clip. He says, “For me, our focus is that we wanted to fulfill a need that almost every Internet user has between one and 20 times a day.”