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Online Flashcard Websites – Introduction

There are a growing number of ways to practice flashcards online. In the next posting and possible more posts in the future, I will give very short reviews of some of the online solutions out there. First, however, let is list a few of the things I suggest students look for when they consider various online flashcard solutions:

Data Portability

Many of these websites are either advertising or subscription driven, or are at least contemplating these sources of income in the future. The more content they come to host, and the more traffic they attract, the more costly it becomes to manage such sites in terms of bandwidth, hosting costs, and labor. If monetization becomes a potential goal then these websites usually come to realize that the flashcards that their users upload the website, or which they provide for their users themselves, are their biggest asset. There is often, thus, a clash between the needs and desires of those running the site on the one hand, and those who use it on the other.

Sites will be very tempted to prevent users from downloading flashcards in a format that can be easily migrated to an offline solution or another website. If users can download flaschards, especially without paying for these flashcards that, in many cases, were typed up and uploaded by other users of the site, then they are essentially giving away “their” assets for free. Sometimes they will use excuses like copyright, which is a ridiculous argument since most such websites allow you to share your uploaded sets (often typed up from copyrighted language textbooks) with other users and some allow it only if you have paid for special “premium” features.

As users it is in our interests to avoid such “closed” web sites in favor of “open” websites which allow you to easily download any flashcards you have access to through the site in a format convenient to you. In reviewing the websites, therefore, I will lay heavy emphasis on data portability.

Other Features

The other major things I look for in an online flashcard solutions beyond the above key issue of data portability are:

1. Interval Study – Does the site provide a solid spaced repetition study system?

2. Fields and Unicode – Does the site provide the ability to review cards with 3 sides useful for studying Asian languages? Does it use Unicode and support non-roman characters?

3. Does it provide a good range of statistics on your study.

4. Does the site make good use of Javascript and or Ajax technologies so that flashcards are loaded quickly and cleanly without the page repeatedly reloading.

5. Does the site provide an easy way to share your flashcards with everyone who visits the site and a way to share with only a few people or optionally, with no one?

I also am looking for other things that I have listed on my Basics page.

See also my Terms page and Issues page.