Yahoo scoops up Summly, aims to transform mobile news

Yahoo has partnered up with Summly – a startup that delivers condensed news articles to its readers – to simplify the news-reading experience for its mobile platform.

Summly founder Nick D'Aloisio and actor Stephen Fry, one of the company's investors, explain the app in its launch video.

Following news is about to get a whole lot easier – or at least shorter – for Yahoo readers. 

Yahoo has acquired Summly, a mobile start-up that condenses news. The announcement, made Monday, does not give details on how much the deal costs. It does note that the transaction is expected to close in the second quarter.

"Mobile devices are shifting our daily routines, and users have changed not only what, but how much information they consume," Adam Cahan, senior vice president of mobile and emerging products at Yahoo, writes on the corporate blog. "Yet most articles and web pages were formatted for browsing with mouse clicks. The ability to skim them on a phone or a tablet can be a real challenge — we want easier ways to identify what's important to us." 

The Summly app pulls in news articles relevant to the reader and, using an algorithm, shrinks the story to a couple of sentences. The reader has the option of clicking for a longer summary or the original article. The algorithm is the product of Summly's in-house research, which uses "genetic algorithms" and machine learning for text summarization. Genetic programming is an evolutionary methodology inspired by biological evolution to find computer programs that perform user-defined tasks. In other words, it mimics human thought and natural selection (as opposed to a linear algorithm), according to the launch video.

Since its launch in 2011, Summly has reached hundreds of thousands of mobile-phone users and received Apple's Best Apps of 2012 award for Intuitive Touch. 

The latest version of the app, which is free, has more than 750,000 downloads since its update in November, the Telegraph reports.

The app has been removed from the iOS store, but Yahoo will start incorporating Summly's technology once the deal goes through.

Summly's creator is perhaps as interesting as the app itself. Nick D'Aloisio is a 17-year-old from London. He taught himself coding at age 12 and created several apps before Summly, according to the app's website. Among his first projects were Facemood, which determines the mood of Facebook users, and SongStumblr, a geosocial music discovery service. In his spare time, he attends the King's College School.

Nick launched the Sumly app two years ago from his home in London, after getting backed by Horizon Ventures to further develop the summarization technology. He has gained multiple investors and advisors, including celebrities like Stephen Fry and Ashton Kutcher.

"When I founded Summly at 15, I would have never imagined being in this position so suddenly," he writes in a statement on the Summly website.

The young entrepreneur's love of technology started with Apple, according to the Telegraph's article. He begged his parents to buy an Apple MacBook because he was interested in the iMovie application. It was after Apple released the iPhone App Store in 2008 that Nick started teaching himself code and launching apps. Each new app became more popular than the last. 

"It was the only thing available on the Web that a 12-year-old could do," he tells the Telegraph. "You couldn't tell it was me behind it because I had the same real estate [on the store] as EA games. It was really democratized. The first day I putt an app in the store, I made £79 ($101). To me, that was amazing."

For more tech news, follow Steph on Twitter: @stephmsolis

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