Skip to Content
Uncategorized

Startup Lets You Save and Share Parts of Web Pages

No need to copy and paste—Clipboard employs advanced Web technology to let users save the part of a page they want.
October 13, 2011

The Web may make it easy to communicate with people thousands of miles away and put libraries full of knowledge at our fingertips, but plenty of simple things are still surprisingly hard to do online. Take saving a piece of a Web page. That specific task is trickier than it sounds. A startup called Clipboard is building a simple solution using some rather sophisticated Web technologies.

As-is preservation: A new Web application called Clipboard, above, preserves bits of Web pages while keeping formatting and functionality (such as links) intact.

Clipboard allows users to select and store pieces of Web pages in a cloud-based account. Users can comment on items, tag them, and search them. The site allows people to keep clippings private, share them with specific people, or offer them to the public. The new site has been in stealth mode until today, but it’s now opening up for a private beta test (readers of Technology Review are invited to participate and can sign up here).

The site’s founder is Gary Flake, who previously founded Microsoft’s Live Labs, Yahoo Research, and Overture Research. Flake says that Clipboard grew out of his own needs. He couldn’t find a satisfying way to save and share information he found while searching the Web. In fact, he describes a laborious process that will sound familiar to many Internet users: After finding something interesting online, he says, he would highlight it, hit control-C, open a word processor or e-mail program, paste the content in, and save or send it. “That’s the state of the art for saving things on the Web,” Flake says. “For me, there was a huge void waiting to be filled.”

Of course, plenty of existing services let people save and share things they find online. People often post links to social networks such as Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter, or to dedicated bookmark sites such as the newly revived Delicious. Services such as Evernote allow people to build up a digital memory cache loaded with notes, photos, and saved information from websites.

But when he went through what’s already out there, Flake says, he couldn’t find anything that met all of his requirements. He wanted to save items from the Web in a form that preserved the way they look, so that he could benefit from his visual memory of the page. He wanted the clips to continue to work—links should function and video should play. Finally, he wanted the things he saved to be portable, stored in the cloud, and easy to put there from a browser on any computer.

Flake describes Clipboard as a Web service that sits on top of the Web pages open in the browser. To use it, a person installs a bookmarklet in the browser. However, clicking the button doesn’t take the user to a new Web page—it launches Clipboard’s lightweight JavaScript application. When running, the application lets a user select portions of an open Web page. It then runs an extraction algorithm that analyzes the page and figures out how to write HTML and CSS that will re-create what the user selected.

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.”

Deep Dive

Uncategorized

Five poems about the mind

DREAM VENDING MACHINE I feed it coins and watch the spring coil back,the clunk of a vacuum-packed, foil-wrappeddream dropping into the tray. It dispenses all kinds of dreams—bad dreams, good dreams,short nightmares to stave off worse ones, recurring dreams with a teacake marshmallow center.Hardboiled caramel dreams to tuck in your cheek,a bag of orange dreams…

Work reinvented: Tech will drive the office evolution

As organizations navigate a new world of hybrid work, tech innovation will be crucial for employee connection and collaboration.

The way forward: Merging IT and operations

Digital transformation in any industry begins with bridging the gap between two traditionally separate teams.

Investing in people is key to successful transformation

People-related factors like talent attraction and retention and clear top-down communication will determine whether your transformation progresses or stalls.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.