is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may recall that over the past year or so I’ve written periodically about the emerging interaction paradigm of cards. During that time, I’ve also been toiling away in an office in downtown Manhattan, focused on this challenge of bringing what you might call “the card web” to life, alongside an amazing team of engineers, designers and analysts at a company called Wildcard. Today, finally, we’re launching the fruits of our labor: Wildcard is the world’s first browser for cards. It’s an iPhone app, it’s free, and it’s available for download in the App Store right now. Go get it!
We think today is a milestone for cards, but it’s still very early in the game. The entire concept remains somewhat theoretical, and lots of otherwise savvy technology consumers have no idea what cards are. If you fall into that camp, don’t worry—the burden is on folks like us at Wildcard to make sense of it for you, to turn this idea into something that delivers practical benefit to real world users. If you’re interested in learning more, you might read my post “What Is a Card?,” but here’s a short explanation of how we’ve executed the ideas in our app.
Cards are single units of content or functionality, presented in a concise visual format that resembles a real world playing card or postcard. In Wildcard, they’re faster than web pages because they’re built from native iOS code, and because they pull from the web only what the user needs, i.e., the actual content or functionality that she’s interested in, leaving behind tons of unnecessary code. Our cards let you catch up on news, watch video, listen to audio, browse products and even complete purchases all in a very elegant, mobile-optimized environment. You can search for anything you’re interested in and if we have cards that match, we’ll return the actual cards to you, so that you can interact with them without having to jump off to a destination web site.
Most of the talk about cards in the past few years has been premised on the idea that it’s an emerging phenomenon, perhaps soon to become an emerging standard, that it’s coming soon, one day in the future. Our goal at Wildcard has always been to build the premier browser for this new frontier, but in order to demonstrate its potential in a way that makes sense to people today, we knew we had to also kick the card web into high gear. That’s why a huge part of our effort over the past year has been invested in building the largest library of cards anywhere. We’ve done that by proactively going to the top web sites and “card-ifying” their content, indexing their content and translating them into our card language. Currently we’re serving up countless cards from hundreds of brands, and soon, as we get better at automating this process, we’ll feature tens of thousands of brands. Wildcard is the most extensive demonstration yet of what an entirely new mobile web might look like. (We also invite anyone to write cards for our browser—head over to our partner site to learn more.)
All that said, we have lots and lots of work to do. Our search engine, which is still young, has been subsisting on search traffic from only a few hundred test users for the past year or so. As our app goes out into the world and we see larger volumes of search queries, we expect it to get much more precise and much more responsive. We also have tons of new kinds of cards to build—what they can do at this moment is just the start. But for today, we’re really excited to get Wildcard out into the world. Please download it today and let us know what you think.
Update: Lots of people have asked why the app is U.S. only. We have some features, particularly checkout, that are not yet ready for other markets. Suffice it to say we intend to fix that soon. Many apologies to those who have tried to download it from outside the States and were met only with frustration.+