Betaworks is a rad company. Take a minute to look at their portfolio. They operate a lot of very handy and important utilities. The products they have aren't glamorous, but they're important. They absorbed Digg and nursed it back to life. They took it from something that was neglected and spam-ridden and transformed it into a modern and clean news resource. I've found some very interesting articles there. I've even submitted a few that I found interesting which went on to grace the HN the homepage.
When I heard that they acquired Digg, it made me happy. I had no doubts. I was excited to see how News.me and Digg would grow together. For this reason, I feel that Instapaper is a perfectly natural fit for their portfolio. They're clearly in the business of making it easier for people to find and digest important information. This is important.
A lot of people were upset to hear that Google Reader was closing down. I was not one of those people. I used to be a big RSS user. I've been playing with blogging since it was invented. I remember migrating from b2 to Wordpress. I remember Technorati and Bloglines. The landscape for sharing and publishing news and data has evolved very rapidly over the last few years. The internet is barely a teenager.
We've become a world of infobesity, and it's only going to snowball from here. Social Media is becoming less and less of a buzzword and more and more of a household commodity. Everyone is connected. We're all on Twitter, everyone is blogging, and everyone is sharing more and more content. How does one manage this information overload? In my experience, it's easier to follow the right people and let my friends and colleagues filter what is important for me. I don't need to subscribe to a hundred feeds that are overwhelming me with data, pumping out content. Instead, I let people who's opinion I value bubble up important content for me. Sometimes even my Twitter feed is unmanageable. Products like Prismatic and Digg do a fantastic job of this. RSS can't be forgotten, but it is dying.
Like most of you reading this, I spend most of my day hacking and working on my own products. I can't afford wasting time browsing everything online. While HN can be full of negativity at times it's not something I can ignore. Too frequently it's a source of cutting-edge information and tools that improve my work and life. If I had a penny for every time I add a line to
/etc/hosts to block it, i'd have a hundred dollars! But seriously, for all of it's flaws, it's an invaluable community.
Enter Instapaper. The "Read it Later" bookmarklet is worth it's weight in gold. I visit HN very frequently, but for very very short bursts. I'll quickly glance over new stories/comments, and when I see something that I like i'll give it a quick glance. If it looks tasty, I punch my Instapaper bookmarklet and delegate reading it to a later period. When I'm cozying up in bed at the end of the day or killing time at a bar waiting for a date to arrive, i'll whip out my iPad/iPhone and catch up on what's happening in our world.
Sure, there are competitors. I've experimented with Pocket and the handful of others. Like any hacker who wants to evaluate new technology, I enjoy seeing just how green the grass is on the other side. I've given them all an honest chance, and yet I always come home to Instapaper. It's straightforward, simple, and hasn't failed me yet. I don't want to come across as a fanboy… Instapaper is not a world-changing product. But it is an unobtrusive part of my life that provides great utility at an extremely low cost. $0.99 for the iPad app. Boom. Done. That's a steal.
I don't always agree with Marco and his opinions, but he does build good software. I have a lot of respect for that. My experience with News.me and Digg have been similar. They're simple products that provide high value, relative to the amount of effort that I give them. Isn't that the purpose of computers and technology, to make our lives easier? To simplify repetitive tasks and eliminate manual labor, and to delegate unnecessary mental work to a CPU or algorithm that can do it faster.
I'm happy to be an Instapaper customer, and I look forward to where it goes with Betaworks holding the reigns. I can't see anything bad about this deal.
Plus, push comes to shove, if shit totally hits the fan, how hard is it for any of us talented hackers to throw together a similar service and mobile experience? We've got a terrific model to follow.