Why I Ditched Instapaper

It was love at first sight. The moment I opened Instapaper, I knew this read later app is designed with words as the main lead of a play. Every day I’m delighted with the details that made me feel like an honored guest in a coffee shop full of my favorite books and magazines.

Update 2014-09-26: I’ve started using Instapaper again because of its highlight feature. Its flawless IFTTT support makes me integrate Instapaper as part of my workflow to keep everything recorded in Evernote. Read more here: Highlight.

Yet, my Instapaper account: deleted yesterday.

I used to recommend both Instapaper and Pocket. The former for saving articles and the latter for storing collections (bookmarks, images, and videos). If you’ve read my setup for recording my online activity, you know that I’ve been using Pocket to save all my articles. The truth is, reading the articles is done in Instapaper, which made possible by creating an IFTTT recipe that syncs Pocket saved items to Instapaper.

I’ve been testing Instapaper and Pocket this past two months. The test is simple. Whenever I save an article, I’ll read them in Instapaper. If Instapaper fails1 to parse the text — author profile is within the article, or image caption got parsed in the opening paragraph — I’m going to open the same article in Pocket and compare the result.

Surprisingly, Pocket rarely have problem with all the articles I’ve saved. There is no clutter. All I can see is well-parsed articles. I start to reconsider compromising Pocket’s limited typeface choices in favor of a better text parser.

This is how I feel with Instapaper in the past two months. The parser doesn’t meet my expectation. I often open the original article to check the missing images, or weirdly parsed texts that break the flow. As a reader, flow — one of the tool used by writer — is important: reader needs flow to immerse themselves in reading; writer creates flow to maintain reader’s attention.

No coffee lover would use a coffee brewer that doesn’t produce the right taste. No words nerd would appreciate a read later service that doesn’t parse the right text.

A product without a working core feature frustrates users. You can build hundred of features, animations, and eye-candies on top of the core feature. But if the core feature of a product consistently fails to meet users’ expectation, they search for a better replacement.

It’s not broken, however, Instapaper no longer meets my expectation2.

  1. I tried to contribute by reporting the text problem regularly. Two months without any significant changes.

  2. The lack of Instapaper Trigger in IFTTT channel also plays part in this decision. Instead of creating notes for each articles saved in Pocket, I prefer to only create notes for archived/read articles. This way, I can filter out articles that aren’t worth saving in Evernote.