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App: Goodbye Apture, Hello Highlight

by John Roberts.

App: Goodbye Apture, Hello Highlight

The Problem: Apture Disappearing

Since its June introduction as a CloudFlare App, Apture's contextual search service has been popular. Thousands of CloudFlare customers installed the app.

In November, we heard that Apture was shutting down their service, as part of their acquisition by Google. Good for them, but we thought immediately "What can we do for CloudFlare site owners?"

Our first instinct was to look around for a replacement service, or more than one, but no obvious alternative emerged. And Apture's deadline for turning the service off was set to Tuesday, December 20.

What to do?

The Response: One-Day Hackathon

Three folks on the CloudFlare team -- Ram, Chris, and Kevin -- decided they could make something similar and useful, given a little bit of time. Offered a single day, as a mini-hackathon, the enthusiastic trio agreed. Our positive experience with larger hackathons helped set the model and expectations.

On December 7, Ram, Chris and Kevin closed the door of a conference room and ignored the rest of the team. They started with pastries and coffee. A clean whiteboard was quickly filled.

App: Goodbye Apture, Hello Highlight

Later in the day, brief interruptions were tolerated for delivery of burritos and Red Bull.

App: Goodbye Apture, Hello Highlight

The team combined several technologies, internal and external, to deliver a simple, polished experience. Free APIs from Bing and DuckDuckGo were explored and put to use. CloudFlareJS as a JavaScript loader made performance straightforward.

Many additional ideas were discussed, but 12 hours isn't much time. The team decided on delivering the core functions of web search, definitions, and (a nice touch) incorporating the "read aloud" benefits of Pronounce, an existing CloudFlare app.

It was a long day, but ultimately successful for Ram, Chris, and Kevin. And for CloudFlare customers.

App: Goodbye Apture, Hello Highlight

The Result: Highlight

Highlight is a one-click install on your CloudFlare-powered site. Highlight gives your site visitors contextual web search and definitions -- and no one needs to leave your site.App: Goodbye Apture, Hello Highlight

Visitors select a word or phrase, and a quiet tooltip appears, inviting them to seek more info or simply listen to the word or phrase read out loud.

Invitation to Apture Customers

CloudFlare customers looking to replace Apture simply need to turn on Highlight.

Not yet a CloudFlare customer? Take five minutes and sign up for CloudFlare. And then use CloudFlare Apps to install Highlight as a worthy replacement to Apture.

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