Life before Instapaper

I mean, was it really living at all?

Let’s be honest — life before Instapaper kind of sucked. Frankly, it’s difficult for me to fully remember what it was like. Looking back, it seems so silly that we time-shifted TV before we time-shifted text. Sure, we’ve always had ways of “bookmarking” URLs (e.g., browser bookmarks, del.icio.us, etc.), but before Instapaper it just wasn’t the same.

Instapaper gave us a way to interleave curation with consumption…and made the entire process delightful.

In the olden days (you know, ~2008) it frequently was the case that if you didn’t read something as it was sitting there in front of you, you never would, and you likely forfeited many things you wanted to read because you just didn’t have a source-agnostic, friction-free way to store them for later. Yes, you could have just opened your 117th tab, or added it to your highly-structured bookmarks collection, but we all know that’s no way to live.

This, of course, was infinitely worse on our phones — is there anything more annoying than the app you’re using not having some simple mechanism by which to fling content to the great service in the sky you’ve decided will hold all the things you hope to eventually read? The answer is no, but until the introduction of app extensions in iOS 8 last year, your frustration level was at the mercy of the app developer and whether they integrated Instapaper into their wares; if they didn’t, you had to do the irritating copy/paste dance…or worse.

Add to this general ability to save/read across effectively every device and medium with some other features that have been tacked on over the years (e.g., content and read-position syncing, retina displays, ability to highlight and annotate, etc.), and you end up with an amazing experience that compels you to read even more. I read a ton of books, but there’s no doubt I spend more time inside of these read-it-later apps (if being in the top 1% of Pocket’s millions of users is any indication), and can’t imagine any better way to get the things I care about into my brain, and on my schedule.


For those of you using Instapaper, it recently added a neat 3D Touch action to its icon: random. Choose this and you’ll jump directly into the reading view of a random article within the app. Some of my favorite Wikipedia apps (including Wikiwand) have a similar feature (at least within the apps themselves).