April 17, 2012 12:02pm
Read it Later has been around longer than either Instapaper or Readability, but the app is rebranding today as Pocket, a free service with a visual overhaul and a nod to outlying content beyond just writing.
The rebrand comes after a period of relative stasis for the company: the service hadn’t been updated for many months on either iOS or Android, and users were beginning to worry that the new Readability, which treats writing like a business (but was accused or funnelling the content through its own servers) would become the cross-platform king of “save it for later” services.
Read it Later was originally a browser extension that turned into a platform. Now, five years later, it has 4.5 million active users and a number of apps that plug into the service. Pocket is moving away from just writing, too: “Pocket isn’t just the best way to save something to read, but it’s also the best way to save videos and images. (As we mentioned in a recent blog post, YouTube is now our most-saved site.) The new Content Filter makes it easier to see all your saved videos and images in one place.”
The Filter, and a new Favourites feature, means that you can easily sort your diversified saved content and view it in a newly designed reader window that is much better than previous offerings. Unlike Instapaper and Readability, Pocket only gives you two font choices — a serif and sans serif — and two margin types. There is a night mode and multiple font sizes, but the main draw is its simplicity, and that it is free.
For users of Read it Later Pro for iOS and Android, this is going to be cold comfort: those users are now equals with their ad-supported peers. But Pocket is aiming to reach multiple millions of users, and making its service free is the first step to do that.
Truthfully, there is nothing Pocket does, besides perhaps its filters and emphasis on non-writing content, that Instapaper or Readability doesn’t do. There is tremendous growth potential here: it’s looking to become a true content provider. And, for once, the Android app seems just as fluid and feature-filled as the iOS version.