Just as in the natural world, the digital universe has "missing links", creatures that might enjoy only a brief spot in the limelight, but nevertheless play a key role as short-term evolutionary pivot points.
Take Napster, for example. One of the first breakout brands of the internet age, music lovers treated the P2P file-sharing service like a free all-you-can-eat MP3 buffet - for a bit. Then it was pounded into a fossil faster than you can say the Recording Industry Association of America.
Still, it was popular long enough to teach a generation how to get music online and created an opening for iTunes to convince us that 99 US cents (Dh3.64) a song is, well, almost free.
Lesser known, but still important, was Mygazines.com. Now a legitimate site for digital publishing software, back in 2008 the URL offered free access to the world's most popular magazines, all scanned page-by-page and stored in PDF format.
Never heard of it? That's because it had no real chance against the well-funded copyright lawyers for magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Vogue, which still sell so many ads their tables of contents often don't start until page 47.
But fear not, advocates of progress, for now there is Flipboard (free; iPhone, iPad), a smartphone app that repackages your favourite parts of the internet into a digital e-pub built just for you. Available for some time on the iPad platform, Flipboard was just relaunched for the iPhone. In both versions, it serves up everything you're interested in, from politics to Facebook updates to Heidi Klum's relationship woes, in a simple, let-your-thumb-or-index-finger do-the-perursing format.
Once you download the app, Flipboard walks you through some basic topics (politics, fashion, sports), letting you pick and choose your favourites. After that, you can also click the bookmark in the top left and search for more specific areas of interest (Roger Federer, gadgets, Elle magazine).
After that, whenever you turn on Flipboard, it will have new picture-friendly "cover stories" waiting for you, enticing you to check in on your friends, favourite bands or latest movies. Once you click a subject, a "lead story" appears that you can either click on for more info, or "flip" from using your thumb, which takes you to another repackaged Web item on the same subject.
Finally, there's a simple solution to transition us from the waning age of print to the golden age of online. It has some obvious form-factor limitations, especially on the iPhone. But unlike its evolutionary predecessors, Flipboard has legs.
Have some great personal finance apps that you want to share? Write to Curt Brandao at firstname.lastname@example.org