Readability, Instapaper and Gruber’s Asshattery

Are you angry at Readability? Do you love Instapaper and want to have Marco’s baby? Do you have sand in your vagina?

I can’t believe how up in arms the Internet (read: know-it-alls) have gotten about Readability’s “link hijacking”. The crux of the KIAs’ argument is that their darling Instapaper links back to the original link (that Instapaper hijacks when you save it directly from a Twitter client) while Readability sends links directly to the copy of the saved article on Readability’s servers. While I can understand that content creators don’t want to lose page views, let’s not forget that Marco and Instapaper have made their money by stripping pages of their ads and reformatting content and storing a copy its own server. Even if the reading service visits the originating page for a moment so that the original site can log a page view, Instapaper, ReadItLater and Readability are all stripping ads from the site. So you’re either pulling page views from the writer, or side-stepping the advertisers’ intended ad. All reading services screw somebody, be it the writer or the advertisers they’re bypassing.

Nobody wants to admit that they’ve been looking past the intended way of viewing the content they saved to Instapaper through their own Twitter client. The KIAs love Marco. He’s been around for a while and he’s the little guy. He’s a one man shop (and it shows in his visual design). When Gruber calls Readability “scumbags” he’s abusing his celebrity. I doubt Readability’s goal was to screw Daring Fireball out of page views. Readability was probably just trying to make it easier to share the view that its users actually want to share. If you’re reading something in Readability, you like the way Readability formats your saved articles and you probably think other people should read them in the same manner that you yourself did. Calling Readability “scumbags” denotes that they were trying to slight you intentionally, which I can’t believe they would.

Readability for iOS

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Move Over Instapaper

Instapaper’s met its match. It did a while ago as a service, but now that the Readability iOS app is out, I can safely say that I’ll never use Instapaper again. I used Instapaper for a long time. I was a paid Pro user back when it was still $10. Instapaper lost me a while ago. After the major update that added that stupid browse bar, friends and changed the stars to hearts, I just hated looking at the iOS app. I tried out Readability since it was new and pretty and immediately loved it. It didn’t have social features tacked on, it had beautiful themes, and it had better Kindle integration than Instapaper ever had.

Looks

Readability is gorgeous. Unlike Instapaper, it actually has a nice icon! It’s a very non-standard iOS UI. It’s got five great themes with modern fonts and both daytime and nighttime reading modes. There’s a “Reading List” button at the top that accesses your unread items, favorites and archived items. Just the basics and that’s all I need. There’s also “・・・” button that gives you a few more things to do. You can search your articles, move and delete them in batches, add articles from URLs or start a Google search and lastly access the settings. There’s not a whole lot to do in the settings. You can choose a look and log into your Twitter and Facebook accounts for sharing purposes. I also love that there’s no “back” button while you’re reading an article. You just swipe to the right and you’re back at the “Reading List”. If you tap once on the screen, you get a menu at the bottom that lets you star, archive, delete, adjust style or share the article. And I’m so glad Readability uses ☆’s. I despise the ♡’s in Instapaper.

Mechanics

Readability is where Instapaper was, functionally, a few years ago. Readability is all about you. There aren’t any social features, you don’t have “friends” but you also don’t have folders or feeds you can subscribe to. I’m cool with this. Folders in Instapaper led me to hold onto articles I should’ve just archived, the “friends” I had in Instapaper either had the same things I had saved or had articles that I had no interest in reading. It’s my reading list, not yours. I’ve never enjoyed reading the articles that people link to. I usually enjoy the stuff that I randomly come across through web searches more.

Karma

I feel good about using Readability. Sure, it’s a free app and a free service, but if you choose to become a contributor, 70% of your contribution goes to the sites that you’re reading (provided they integrate Readability into their site) and 30% goes to Readability to cover maintenance and employee salaries, I suppose. I paid $10 dollars for Instapaper and I’m sure no one beside Marco Arment (or Apple) ever saw a cent of that money. Sure I’ve given about $20 to Readability in four months, but the sites that are getting money from me are happy to get it, I’m sure. If you want to be a good Netizen, try using Readability. You’ll feel better about yourself for giving some money to the writer of that article you ripped the ads out of instead of helping Marco pay for his self-important coffee.