Instapaper

The New Instapaper is Live

The beta is over, and the new design has been rolled out to instapaper.com proper. I still love the way this looks, and according to their blog post about the new design, reading progress now syncs on the web. This has been one of my longest-running wishes for Instapaper's web client (the iOS versions have had this capability for a long time).

Instapaper Web Beta

From the Instapaper blog:

“When the [Betaworks] team sat down with Instapaper’s creator, Marco Arment, back in April to get a download of his ideas and to-dos for improving Instapaper, the first thing on his list was to update the Instapaper website. Well we’ve done it, and it’s now ready for you to check out and test.”

I've only been using the beta for a few minutes, but I already dig the new visual style and layout. It's very exciting to see that Instapaper's still being actively developed and improved after Marco sold it a while back.

If you'd like to check out the beta, just head over to beta.instapaper.com and log in with your Instapaper credentials.

The Way I Use Instapaper

In the 5 or so years that I've been an Instapaper customer, I've never made a secret out of my love for the service. It's something I use every single day, often multiple times a day, and yet...I've never gotten around to writing about how I use it.

In other words, I haven't yet made it easy for other Instapaper nerds to critique my usage and notify me explicitly about what it is I'm doing wrong. Let's change that, shall we?

The way I use Instapaper is completely dependent on the folder system. I've got several folders set up, each of which serves as a kind of category for stuff I want to read or check out later. Instapaper generates a unique bookmarklet for each folder, so I've got all of those saved in Google Chrome and Mobile Safari for easy access.

Depending on the type of content I'm saving, I'll just click/tap the appropriate bookmarklet and it'll be filed into the right place so I don't have to worry about it later. Here's a list of my current folders:

Read Later

This is the default, self-explanatory folder that drives the whole Instapaper experience. See an article or other thing online that you want to check out at a later date? Click the 'Read Later' bookmarklet, or email the link to your private Instapaper email address, or tap the Instapaper share button in your favorite RSS/Twitter/ADN client, and the Read Later folder is where that thing will end up.

Think of it as Instapaper's inbox. As things come in, I either leave them there (such is the case for long-form articles and the like) or process them into one of the other folders.

Watch Later

This folder is what I use as a central place for any video content I'd like to watch later, whether it's from YouTube, Vimeo, or elsewhere. With YouTube and Vimeo videos, I don't even have to use a bookmarklet; thanks to a couple of IFTTT recipes, I can simply click the 'Later' button on their respective video players and they'll end up in Instapaper, where they can be watched directly within the app.

The only downside to the IFTTT recipes is that I have no way of specifying which folder they end up in, so they just default to the Read Later inbox. Luckily, the Instapaper app makes it super easy to move them to the right folder all at once.

Listen Later

This is a repository for anything I'd like to — you guessed it — listen to later. This is ideal for single podcast episodes (since it allows me to listen without subscribing to the entire series and/or digging through back-catalogs), but it also works well for music I'd like to check out.

Post Ideas

A lot of my time on the web is spent reading news articles and blog posts. When something strikes me as interesting enough to write about, or gets me thinking deeply about a subject, or is simply something I'd like to link to later, I save it under Post Ideas. Many things I've written on Unretrofied have been inspired by things saved in this folder.

Tools & Toys Ideas

Same idea as Post Ideas, except this is reserved for cool items I come across and want to talk about on Tools and Toys. It's basically a list full of neat apps, gadgets, bags, and other paraphernalia that will likely end up on T&T someday.

Style

I'm in the process of losing weight, and when I get down to my goal weight, I would love to overhaul my personal style. Right now my daily outfit (almost year-round) is this:

  • Hoodie, zipped about 3/4 of the way up, sleeves rolled up if it's hot outside
  • T-shirt with some kind of graphic on the front
  • Loose-fitting jeans
  • Sneakers

Comfy for the most part, but not very stylish. So, as I'm browsing around the web, sometimes I might come across a photo of a cool jacket or hairstyle or pair of glasses or whatever. I save that stuff under Style for later reference.

Camera Research

As I discussed a while back, I'm interested in picking up a mirrorless camera someday. As I come across new cameras, or the reviews of popular picks, I save them here. It's a simple way to keep all my research in one place.

I know that I could use Evernote for something like this, but having a single-click Instapaper bookmarklet makes the process that much easier.

Bookmarks

I treat this as a bit of a dumping ground for anything that doesn't fit into the other folders or I haven't yet figured out what to do with. Some examples:

  • Stuff I'd like to buy for myself, much like an Amazon wishlist
  • Websites/services/apps/downloads I want to check out later
  • Interesting Quora threads
  • Informative forum posts
  • Recipes

I guess I could go through this list sometime and move a few of these things to more appropriate places, such as Evernote or Amazon, but I'm not too overly concerned. Nothing in this folder is critical to my life or anything. In fact, I might just delete it pretty soon.

Webcomics

There are lots of great webcomics out there, and I'm subscribed to some of them via RSS, but before I subscribe I put them into this folder so I can check them out later and subscribe to the best ones. I'm not talking about stuff like xkcd either, but webcomics with long story arcs. I'll probably do a writeup on my favorites someday.

* * *

And there you have it! As you can see, Instapaper is more than just a 'read later' service to me, but also a great bookmarking utility. I used Instapaper this way long before I ever heard of Pinboard, and simply haven't had the desire or need to switch over to such a service.

So what are your thoughts here? Am I doing it wrong? Did I inspire you to use Instapaper in a different way than you have been? Is your use-case the exact same as mine? Either way, let me know! I'm interested to see how others use the service.

Using What's Already There

Chris Bowler:

“My confidence and trust in free services is at an all time low. [...] So in the arena of read-it-later services, I've been thinking about options where I would be considered the customer.

I realized that one company that I do trust, for whom I am the customer, offers such a service. But it's one I never gave any consideration since it launched, I suppose because I was already enjoying some other service at the time. This company is Apple and the tool is Reading List.

Chris makes some excellent points in this piece. I will remain an avid Instapaper user for the foreseeable future, but if the service were to ever shut down, I would probably give Reading List a shot over something like Pocket.

Instapaper Acquired by Betaworks

In a surprising move (to me at least), Marco Arment has sold his majority stake in Instapaper to Betaworks.

“Instapaper is much bigger today than I could have predicted in 2008, and it has simply grown far beyond what one person can do. To really shine, it needs a full-time staff of at least a few people. But I wouldn’t be very good at hiring and leading a staff, and after more than five years, I’d like an opportunity to try other apps and creative projects. Instapaper needs a new home where it can be staffed and grown, but I didn’t want to give it to a big company that would probably just shut it down in six months.”

This seems like a bittersweet deal to me. While I don't doubt that Betaworks can do well with Instapaper, I've always enjoyed the fact that it was always a one-man operation that could go toe-to-toe with the big guys.

I was a fan of the service anyway, but I got a certain enjoyment from rooting for the underdog. And I only say 'underdog' because of the huge explosion in popularity for Pocket, which not only has a staff that outnumbers Marco 9-to-1, but also seems to have become the market dominator, if the anecdotes I've read all over the web are any indicator.

Still, I congratulate Marco on his years of success (4 or 5 of which I've been a customer for), and I'm thankful to him for making such a fantastic utility. Instapaper literally changed the way I interact with the web, and the ideas behind its text-formatter likely encouraged many websites to adopt a cleaner experience.

I think the web would be a very different place without Instapaper, and Marco should be proud of what he accomplished with it. I look forward to whatever he comes up with next.