Particle: An AI-Driven News Reader Developed by Former Twitter Engineers

A team led by former Twitter engineers is rethinking how AI can be used to help people process news and information. The startup was founded last year by former Senior Director of Product Management at Twitter, Sara Beykpour, who worked on products like Twitter Blue, Twitter Video, and conversations, and had spearheaded the experimental app, twttr. She had been at Twitter from 2015 through 2021, growing her position from software engineering to that of a senior director of product management. The premise behind Particle, as Beykpour explained last month, is to make it easier to keep up with news using AI. We’re hoping to talk in more detail about how Particle vets its sources closer to a public launch.

A team of former Twitter engineers is revolutionizing the way AI can assist individuals in processing news and information. This weekend, Particle.news, a startup led by this team, entered private beta, introducing a personalized news reading experience that utilizes AI not only to summarize news stories, but also to compensate authors and publishers fairly. This is their claim, at least.

While the team has yet to reveal their business model, the timing of Particle’s arrival is significant. With growing concern about the effects of AI on the ever-shrinking news industry, there is a need for news that is both quickly condensed and accurately sourced. However, relying on AI to summarize news could result in limited clicks to publishers’ websites, ultimately decreasing revenue from advertisements.

The instigator behind Particle is Sarah Beykpour, who served as the Senior Director of Product Management at Twitter. Beykpour worked on notable products such as Twitter Blue, Twitter Video, and Conversations. She also spearheaded the experimental app, twttr, and has been with Twitter since 2015 as a software engineer and ultimately as the senior director of product management. Beykpour’s co-founder, Marcel Molina, is a former senior engineer at both Twitter and Tesla.

Particle’s concept, as explained by Beykpour in a Threads update last month, is to provide an effortless way for individuals to stay updated on news through the use of AI. “Sometimes it feels like we only have time to skim headlines. On the other hand, we also want to know more, and quickly,” she wrote. “We are in the initial stages of utilizing AI to transform the way we interact with news.”

Through Particle, readers receive a quick and concise summary of a news story, drawn from various sources. When announcing the private beta, Beykpour stated that readers can use this summary to get a brief overview or choose to dive deeper and learn about the progression of a story over time.

Particle has received funding from Kindred Ventures, Adverb Ventures, and various angel investors, including Ev Williams, co-founder of Twitter and Medium, and Scott Belsky, founder of Behance.

“Particle has become an essential app for me, synthesizing the many articles and perspectives on any given news topic,” remarked Belsky about the app. “It surfaces key points with objectivity and allows you to explore further in many dimensions. In a time where abstraction is prevalent, Particle is a prime example of daily AI.”

Particle offers a demonstration of its technology to non-logged-in users through its website. The articles are accompanied by their summaries, a timestamp indicating when they were last updated, and a section at the bottom highlighting sources. These sources vary across the political spectrum and include notable publishers such as The New York Times, CNBC, the Associated Press, ABC, CNN, Breitbart, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Politico, Fox News, USA Today, The Daily Caller, New York Post, The Hill, and others. International outlets are also featured when relevant. However, the bullet points are not linked to their original sources, making it difficult to fact-check without reading through all the articles. (Key terms are linked, though). Additionally, we noticed that the photographs accompanying each article are watermarked with the publisher’s logo.

It is likely that the final product will differ as Particle is currently launching its private beta for testing and intends to introduce a mobile app in the future. They are currently seeking a Senior iOS Engineer.

The concept of utilizing multiple news sources and using AI to summarize them was also employed by Artifact, a now-defunct startup founded by Instagram’s co-founders. Artifact’s team carefully curated their news sources based on factors such as accuracy and quality. For instance, the outlets had to promptly correct any mistakes and be transparent about their funding. We hope to learn more about how Particle vets its sources as they approach a public launch.

Another news app that leverages AI, Bulletin, recently launched to combat clickbait and provide news summaries.

What sets Particle apart, given the competition in this field, is its founding team. As former Twitter employees, the co-founders have experienced firsthand the fast-paced news industry and possess the technical and product expertise to deliver a high-quality app. However, whether publishers who feel threatened by AI will consider this to be fair compensation remains to be seen.

April Underwood, co-founder and Managing Director at Adverb Ventures, praised Particle’s entry into the market in a post on LinkedIn about the firm’s investment.

“We had the opportunity to invest in Particle just as we were finalizing our first close for Fund 1, and we had to wait for our first capital call to wire them the money!” she wrote on Sunday. Adverb closed their $75 million Fund 1 only a few months ago. “Sara and Marcel are exactly the type of founders we hoped to support when we set out to create a new early-stage firm. They are tackling a significant problem space, possess the skills to address major issues with a high-quality product, and can attract other talented individuals to join them as they create a future that consumers don’t even know they need yet.”

Requests for comment have not been returned yet. The beta sign-up form for Particle can be found on their website.

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Max Chen

Max Chen is an AI expert and journalist with a focus on the ethical and societal implications of emerging technologies. He has a background in computer science and is known for his clear and concise writing on complex technical topics. He has also written extensively on the potential risks and benefits of AI, and is a frequent speaker on the subject at industry conferences and events.

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