Thirst: A News Reader In Development

I love options. With access to the App Store with over 375,000 apps available, you’ll have plenty of them — and the category of news readers is no exception. The fairly new on the scene app, Thirst, claims to be “a personalized newspaper that really matters to you.” But I’ve heard similar promises from other apps and been disappointed.

My biggest question going into this review was, “Is this news reader really going to be that different in order to make it stand out?” So, in a cluttered category how does Thirst stack up? Read on to find out.

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My First Impression

To get started you’ll need to sign in using Facebook or Twitter. Of course you also have the option of creating yet another account (as if you didn’t have enough different ones to keep track of) with Thirst. I was given the option to find friends after signing in with Twitter, but none were listed. The lack of activity was a common theme (more on that later).

My first impression was that it looked like a combination of a Twitter app and Pinterest. The design and color scheme reminded me of Twitter and the headlines are displayed in a two column Pinterest-style format. For me, I’m undecided as to whether I like the staggered headline look because it keeps headlines from running into each other, or if I’d prefer a more symmetrical and organized layout.

Layout and design

Thirst’s design somehow pulls off the look of a Twitter/Pinterest mashup.

Overall though, I like the design and clean, simple style. Almost everything seemed to make sense, so I felt like I had a good handle on things within a couple minutes. You can mark topics you like and don’t like using the + button above each headline. Once you choose to read an article there are three tabs for reading the story, discussing it with others and seeing anything related.

Customize your news

Just tap the + button next to a topic to tell Thirst if you want to read more or less about that subject.

Where it got confusing for me was with some stories, the topic that you could choose to either favorite or block was actually the person in the story, and not the overarching subject. For instance, instead of a topic being a sports team that I like, it would be a certain player on the team — just because this story was about them. This was true even if the player was not well known and wouldn’t be likely to have a whole host of stories dedicated to them.

Sharing is kind of confusing. It needs to be done through the comment section by clicking the corresponding button in the top right corner when viewing a story.

Building A Community

The developers of Thirst are trying to build a community that makes the news reading experience more engaging. So, whilst you’re reading an article, you can either like or dislike it, comment  on it or block it from being seen on your feed. This is pretty typical for most stories online. However, they have also added statistics at the bottom of each story to show the number of people who have liked, disliked and commented on the article.

Building a community

Thirst attempts to build a social community where you can see what others are reading and interact with friends.

To go along with the idea of building a community there is a discussions section where you can see stories that readers have recently engaged with. There is also a way to see interactions and what your friends are up to in the activity portion of the app. I was a little surprised when I saw that discussion headlines are displayed differently than topics in a one column format as opposed to the two column style everywhere else. I personally prefer consistency in an app’s design.

You can follow anyone you’d like by finding any activity they have done (commenting, liking, etc) and tapping on their name.

Why It’s In Development

In my opinion, Thirst has a long way to go before it’s going to replace any of my current news reading apps. Here’s why.

To begin with, there are only twenty stories listed per category. Once you scroll to the bottom there is nothing else to load. That’s all you get until new content is populated. Thirst is supposed to create your newspaper based on your likes and dislikes, but topics that I had said I didn’t want to see any longer kept coming back. Occasionally they would be permanently removed, but when that happened they weren’t replaced with new topics. I was just given even fewer stories to choose from.

On top of all this, the way some topics were categorized just didn’t make sense. At one point, Facebook was listed under politics and stories about the App Store and Smurfs were categorized under music.

Very little discussion

The community is definitely in its early stages. There wasn’t much interaction happening yet.

I also noticed that the community was barely existent. In fact, if I didn’t know any better I’d have thought this was something straight out of the movie I Am Legend. There had been very few updates in the last month or so. For example, the only two stories listed under discussions were from over a month ago. Even The Thirst Narwhal who seems to follow everyone on the app hadn’t done anything in the last two months.

Lastly — and this is a small thing — the way the story tiles rearrange when going into and coming out of stories gets a little obnoxious and seems to me to be unnecessary. My personal preference is for an app’s design and animations to be simple and stay out of the way. If you’re going to do something for the sake of being cool it should still have somewhat of a purpose. I just found this to be annoying.

Look Elsewhere

So, while Thirst shows promise, it currently lacks in execution. If you’re someone who isn’t considerably picky about news apps (i.e. you’re always comparing them), this might work out fine for you. If you don’t care about being a part of the social community experience then you could potentially use this as well.

At the end of the day, my suggestion is to just look elsewhere. With a nice design and good ideas, Thirst has the potential to become a go-to app in the future. The question is, will people remember to come back and give it another chance?


Summary

While Thirst shows promise as a news reader app, it currently lacks in execution. With plenty of options available on the app store, I would avoid this one until the developers work on it more.

5