Qwiki Launches Public Alpha To Change the Way You Consume Information

Fresh off raising $8 million in funding, “information experience” startup Qwiki is opening up its alpha to the public Monday.

Qwiki, as a refresher, weaves together multiple data sources in near real-time to create more than 3 million interactive video presentations on reference topics. The startup aims to create an information consumption experience as culturally relevant as Google or Facebook.

“Qwiki is not search -– it’s a new media format and a groundbreaking method of consuming information,” says Dr. Louis Monier, co-founder and CTO. “The future of Qwiki is to allow mass creation and customization of rich media via our platform, and our new public alpha features represent the first step towards that vision.”

With the public unveil comes a few new features, most notable of which is the ability for users to contribute content by suggesting web photos and YouTube videos for Qwikis in the new “Improve this Qwiki” tab. Here, users can also report mispronounced words and note whether the audio is too fast or too slow.

In the new release, there’s now a “Contents” tab that provides users with a clickable list of all the information contained within each Qwiki. The startup has also finally enabled users to embed Qwikis on third-party websites, as evidenced by the Qwiki of the Day:

The public launch marks the startup’s interest in reaching the hundreds of thousands would-be users who signed up for alpha access. The product still maintains its alpha status, however, so users should expect some kinks.

Qwiki has a long way to go before it completes its platform strategy — an API, iPad and iPhone app are all in the works — and is attracting naysayers in the meantime. The startup’s most common criticism is that it’s an over-hyped, visual talking version of Wikipedia, but the startup’s investors and founders believe they can change how information is experienced.

“We don’t have a me too product we want to trade in for free lunches at Google. We have a proposition that grabs most people by the throat and doesn’t let go,” Monier said in a private e-mail to co-founder Doug Imbruce late last week. “We have a new brush and new colors to paint anything we want. We have complex technology … that delivers magic and will be hard to imitate. We are the first to explore a whole new world.”

Now that Qwiki is a public product, you can be judge of that.

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