A new mobile application called Dull wants to fill your moments of downtime by offering a feed of random content to mindlessly browse through, including photos, music, GIFs, news and information, products, and more. The end result is an app that lets you stare mindlessly at your phone, when there's nothing else to do - or when you've grown tired of scrolling through Instagram, perhaps.
After installing Dull (which scored the clever domain name Dull.rocks, by the way), you're presented with a busy feed of content and some information about how the app works.
I personally found the user interface too cluttered and chaotic initially: the intro screen is designed in a way that made me actually wonder if its amateur look was intentional. After all, some of the bigger social apps today, including Snapchat and Yik Yak, for example, started off as terrible-looking apps. But their user base of teens and young adults didn't seem to care. In fact, it's possible that those users found the apps appealing because they didn't look like they were designed by a large company, like Facebook, which made them feel more exclusive and unique.
Or then again, maybe this is just Dull's idea of top design. (!!!)
In any event, once you get past the messy intro screen, the concept behind Dull is interesting. It's sort of a News Feed-style interface but filled with trending content from a variety of networks. You can go into the app's settings and turn on or off toggles for the various supported services, which include sites like Reddit, Giphy, Flickr, Instagram, Vine, SoundCloud, YouTube, Shuffler.fm, 500px, Canopy, Pinterest, Fashionista, XKCD, ProductHunt, and more. The app unfortunately lacks a viable selection of news sites or blogs to choose from, however, and doesn't let you enter in your own URLs in order to better personalize the content.
In other words, I wouldn't count on Dull to be a replacement for your preferred news application, like WSJ, NYT, CNN, Circa, etc. It's definitely catering to the youth market today with its selection of less-than-serious content.
Dull was built by Roeland Landegent as a side project. Roeland says during Dull's beta test period with 150 users, roughly 70% returned to the app within a day. After its debut on ProductHunt's site this week, Dull saw over 10,000 hits to its website - which may speak more to ProductHunt's ability to send traffic, more so than the draw of the app itself (though it did climb to #3).
To some extent, the app competes with other more user-friendly news and content discovery services or feed readers like Betaworks' Bloglovin, or even social magazine apps like Flipboard, but differentiates itself by way of its layout, and its other features.
For example, the content on Dull automatically scrolls by after a few seconds, or you can scroll through the app yourself. You can also swipe content off to the side of the screen to remove it or swipe right to share. In addition, any of the multimedia presented in Dull can be played and interacted with right in the main interface, including videos or mp3s. News articles open up directly in Dull by way of an in-app browser as well.
Explains Roeland, "the difference with 'common' feedreaders is that we do the selection of available feeds and optimize the feeds by hand in our backend," he says. "Now it's really about gathering the trending posts from those available platforms - sometimes by API, sometimes RSS top articles, sometimes XHTML DOM parsing."
That is, users are meant to go to Dull for its curation abilities.
One of the more interesting things about Dull's content aggregator is that it's connected to the apps you have installed on your phone, allowing you to tap a button to view the item in the native application it's pulled from. Unfortunately, this option is buried within the "Share" interface so it's not immediately obvious that this feature is available.
Despite its newness, Dull is already experimenting with a biz model - it displays ads as content within its stream, but you can opt to shut these off for $2.99.
Dull is a free download for iOS.