Analyzing Instapaper

Developed by Marco Arment, Instapaper is a simple application that allows users to save online articles and read them later at their own convenience. A year ago when I was still commuting everyday from Virginia into Washington DC using the Metro, Instapaper was my reading tool on my iPod Touch. Before heading to work or leaving work, I would save a handful of articles I want to read during the train ride.

One of the activities Instapaper deems important is downloading the main content of the articles on the web and presenting them in a way that is legible and readable on the user’s devices. Instapaper makes saving articles easy via “Read Later” bookmarklet. Once the bookmarket is on the browser’s bookmark bar, users can click on it when they are on a page or an article they want to read later.

One of Instapaper’s standout features is the capability to ignore related elements surrounding the article such as the navigations, sidebars and especially annoying ads. For example, reading an article on a web site like New York Times is quite distracting because of all the moving ads, sidebars, paginations (an article is broken down to several pages) and tiny fonts. Trying to read the New York Times on a small device like an iPod Touch is even worse. Users have to constantly zoom into the text to read. Instapaper changed all of that. By focusing on the main content and stripping away unnecessary elements, Instapaper makes reading much more pleasurable.

Instapaper defines the attributes of the information it process by saving the articles for the users. Before Instapaper, I collect my favorite online articles by printing them out and saving them. Instapaper allows me to save that paper-wasting process and have my favorite articles all in one place. Once my collected articles are saved and downloaded into Instapaper, I don’t need Internet access to read them. I can open up the app on my iPod and read the articles whenever or wherever I prefer. I can archive as many articles as I like and I can delete the ones that I don’t want to keep.

Sharing information is not important to Instapaper because its main service is to collect, but it does make sharing easy. Users can post a link to social networks including Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinboard and Evernote. Instapaper requires users to create a free account to archive all the articles. Since Instapaper only asks for email address and a new password to sign up for an account, maintaining users private information is fairly minimal. All the transactions of purchasing the software are done through Apple’s app store or Android’s app store. Instapaper generates its revenue by offering the service to users. While Instapaper has several competitors such as Readability and Pocket, its elegant design and continuous refinement make Instapaper a fine tool for reading online articles offline.

(Fourth essay for Graduate Design Seminar)