About a year and a half ago, my co-founders Jordan, Eric, and I set out to try and make the internet easier to use on our phones. We felt that interacting with slow, clunky web pages in Safari, that required you to pinch to zoom in and out, pan around, and type lots of information into awkward forms was a really poor way to access the amazing internet that we’ve been accustomed to using over the past 20 years on our desktop and laptop computers.
At the time, we didn’t know exactly how we were going to solve the problem, but we knew that a better way to consume content and take action on mobile must be possible. We started looking at the app ecosystems and the mobile web ecosystems, and found the benefits and drawbacks of each. We began to formulate a hypothesis that on mobile you are really looking for a fast, simple, app-like experience with the benefits of the web, like searchability, sharability, discovery, and URL-based permanence. At the same time we saw trends emerging within the big platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, Google, and Facebook where those services would pull the content behind URLs into rich, user friendly cards on mobile, so users would not have to click through to the web. We were experimenting with very similar concepts, and arriving at very similar conclusions. This was a trend that we wanted to build product around.
Fast forward to the current day. We’ve been fortunate to have an amazing group of believers join our team to work on all the hard engineering, product design, and business challenges that need to be overcome to convert the existing legacy internet into a new native, card-based internet. Two weeks ago, we launched the first version of Wildcard – the world’s first “card browser” – which contains search, navigation, and display and interaction for native mobile-friendly cards. That’s a highly technical mouthful, so to simplify – Wildcard is a faster, easier way to use the internet on your phone. We’d like to replace your web browser, but we are not a web browser. In Wildcard you can’t access every page on the legacy internet using a URL, and when you search you don’t get ten blue links back that you have to click on to go to a web page. Instead we’re a browser for a smaller, mobile friendly internet – an internet that’s still being defined and built. We work a little differently, but when we succeed, you know that you’ll be getting a fast, clean interaction.
I believe that our domain name, trywildcard.com, is fitting because what I really would like to ask of people today is to “please try Wildcard.” Replacing your web browser is a monumental task – one I believe that we can accomplish over years of hard work, with lots of participation from developers, partners, and the community – but we are by no means a total replacement for your web browser today. Instead, I believe that Wildcard is the beginning of a much better experience for interacting with a new type of native internet on mobile. Today it performs very well for some tasks – reading news and articles, shopping, watching videos, looking up facts, staying on top of what is new and interesting in the tech world. Try Wildcard when you take out your phone and intend to do one of these things. The next time you’re about to open Safari and run a search, please give Wildcard a try first. We won’t yet nail every experience, but when we do, I believe you’ll have a better, faster, experience than you would using the legacy web. And our team is working hard to add new cards types, add better search support for more types of queries, and add new content so that two weeks, two months, and two years from now Wildcard moves closer and closer to being your preferred way of using the internet on your phone.
In my role as VP Engineering at Wildcard, I’m most excited about the technology that we’ve been building to power all of the card interactions you see in Wildcard with the existing web sites on the legacy internet. In the future we may live in a world where everyone is publishing and serving their own cards, but in the meantime we need to use our tech to bootstrap this new internet, and we’re facing tremendous challenges around crawling, classification, data extraction, search, emulation, proxying, error detection, performance optimization, mobile development, internal tooling, and more. I’ll write more about our technology in future posts. For now, please check out the product, download Wildcard from the iOS app store, and let me know what you think.