Once upon a time, Instapaper – a “read it later” service – was seen as a darling of Apple’s iOS App Store. Built, launched, and maintained almost entirely by Marco Arment (of Tumblr, Marco.org, and most recently The Magazine fame), Instapaper stood as a shining example of what someone with determination and even just a little skill can build on Apple’s then new platform.
But as time went on, Instapaper’s appeal became more and more limited as people demanded not just a quality iOS application, but a complementing web application (which actually launched first in the history of Instapaper to limited fanfare), syncing with other devices, iPad support, Android support, so on and so forth, which Marco unable to keep up with the growing demands of the users. To make matters worse for Marco and Instapaper, Pocket – an entirely free service previously known as Read It Later, began to eat away from Instapaper’s userbase in a likely not insignificant fashion.
Marco’s solution to this problem was simple. Just a few months ago, Marco announced that he was selling his beloved Instapaper to none other than Betaworks, a New York based startup famous for the successful resurrection of none other than Digg. Commenting on the sale at the time, Marco claimed that the sale was made because he rightly believed that for Instapaper to grow, it needed a dedicated, full time staff time create what he called the “next generation of Instapaper.” Well, today we’re getting a look at that next generation of Instapaper for the very first time with a redesigned web app. Which, if this first look at the new Instapaper is any indication, the future of Instapaper is very bright indeed.
Betaworks claims that they focused on making sure that they were dead focused on “upgrading performance, improving reliability, and updating design” for an Instapaper that was desperately in need of some upgrades and improvements. The new design, which launched today for all users of the service, features a brand new user experience with a navigation bar anchored on the left side of the page and a simplified, streamlined user interface.
That’s not all. In a blog post announcing the changes, Betaworks officially confirmed that this update would be the first of a new vision for Instapaper, announcing changes to their mobile lineup of applications. Confirming that they have entirely new versions of their Android and iOS applications in development, Betaworks has proven that they’re fully committed to revitalizing the Instapaper brand for a whole new generation of devices and users. The question now is simple – have the changes come too late for this one shining example of the next generation of web services? As a big fan of Marco’s work and Instapaper, I for one hope that Instapaper has many more bright days ahead.