I started using Pocket in 2018, and since then, I became one of the top 5% of there userbase (according to one email I received). But recently, I decided to switch to Instapaper. I had several reasons for making the move that I’ll talk about in this post.
Problems with Pocket
Pocket is a Read It Later application. It means that I can save the webpages with articles that I come across during the day. These kinds of applications display the content of the webpages in a nice and readable manner and remove all the clutter. You might use it for the pages you don’t want to read immediately or for the pages with a lot of clutter (like News websites). I’m a software engineer by profession, and I read a lot of webpages with code snippets on them. As a user of Pocket, I naturally save them in Pocket. Now my first problem with using Pocket is that Pocket is not very good at parsing the webpages with code in them. It often skips the code sections entirely or presents it as normal text without proper spacing. This makes it unsuitable for such use cases.
Pocket also acts as an archive of all the articles you read. It offers a full-text search on the entire archive with the premium version. So far I was using the free version of Pocket, but as my archive grows (1000+), this becomes more and more important for me. I was thinking of getting the premium version, but I was not satisfied with its parsing of certain types of webpages. So, I started looking for alternatives.
I found an open-source software in the same space as Pocket, Wallabag. It is a PHP web application with support for MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQLite database support. The developers of Wallabag also provide a hosted service at Wallabag.it with a 14-days trial. So, I decided to give it a try. It has support for importing the Pocket. Wallabag also supports full-text searching. The parser also did a decent job with different types of webpages. Aesthetically, the web-interface was not very polished and didn’t look very good to me. The phone application was slightly better with the dark theme. However, configuring the phone application was complicated. The tablet experience with the IOS application was even worse. Overall, I was still not satisfied with the whole experience, and I continued to look for alternatives.
The next service I encountered was EmailThis. It is very different from other Read It Later services so far. The idea is simple, instead of using an application or web-interface, this service nicely formats the webpage and emails it to you. Everyone already has email clients installed on all the devices to this is very convenient. The email clients generally also support full-text searching that solves my problem as well. However, free service is limited to 20 articles a month, and there is no monthly plan. You’ll have to commit for at least a year. So, I cannot immediately migrate my archive without committing for a year in advance. They do not have an application to compare the experience. But one problem I see is with the saving option on the phone. The way it suggests is by sending an email by using the “Share” feature of the browser. It contrasts with Pocket’s browser integration because this opens the Email application switching the context. I found it slightly inconvenient.
Finally, I came back to Instapaper. I had used Instapaper in the past when it was still under Pinterest. Back then, I switched to Pocket for some reason I don’t remember anymore. I decided to give Instapaper another go. Instapaper pretty much has similar features as Pocket. They reintroduced the premium plan with full-text searching and unlimited highlights after becoming independent again for sustainability. Instapaper’s parser worked decently with most of the webpages. I like the interface, themes, and font choices on Instapaper. Instapaper has applications for both IOS and Android and browser extensions for saving the pages. One of the best features of Instapaper is “Save to Kindle.” It is useful for long-form articles or webpage reading by sending it to Kindle. So, I decided to settle with Instapaper.