Instapaper: Bookmarking Elegance for Web Workers


If web site bookmarking is something you do day in and day out, there’s a new bookmarking tool you need to add to your browser – Instapaper (via TechCrunch). The side project of Marco Arment, creator of the very cool micro-blogging service Tumbir, Instapaper is online bookmarking that gets out of your way so you can bookmark the way you need to when you spend your working day on the web.

Back in the early days of the World Wide Web, bookmarks were okay as a means of noting the one page you found in your 30 minutes a day on the web, but did not scale well as the hours you spent web surfing grew. As the web grew, social bookmarking tools like and digg took the approach that the power of online collaboration was worth the extra clicks and time to give you at least some way of gathering the pages you wanted to return to. But if you just needed to bookmark dozens of pages in the course of your workday, and you didn’t necessarily want to share those finds with the entire world, your only real alternative was to keep dumping bookmarks into your browser until it you had a ridiculously bloated toolbar.

Instapaper is personal bookmarking evolved. You sign up with your email (or anything else you want to use, no password necessary), get a bookmarklet you stick in your toolbar and you’re good to go. Then when you hit a page you need to read later, you click the Instapaper bookmarklet, a window briefly pops up saying “Saved!” then goes away and you’re done. No time wasted going off to some other page; no breaking your train of thought to fill in a form.

Back at Instapaper, here’s what you find:


While you can add a note to a URL, why bother? Instapaper has reduced bookmarking to its absolute minimum, and that means bookmarking can finally scale.

If you’re interested, here’s my very modest hack for Instapaper – don’t just create one account. I created 3 – one for each of the main areas of my life. Now when I’m in surfing mode, I can with one click add a page to my personal web newspaper:

Instapaper hack

Update: I asked Marco how he came to write Instapaper: “I wrote Instapaper, quite simply, because I needed it myself. Having recently started using a smartphone, I noticed that there were plenty of times that I wanted to read long-form content while idle – I spend about 90 minutes on trains every day. I also frequently find online articles that are too long to read at that moment, but that I’d truly like to read at some point. Instapaper is the simplest possible solution that solves both of those problems for me – and as it happens, a lot of other people have found it useful, too.”

What about scalability?: “I’m really not concerned about scalability. The site costs nearly nothing to run, and its server has plenty of excess capacity. It’s also just a very simple site, so I can serve many times its current traffic without any infrastructure expansion. Exceeding the capacity of affordable hosting is a problem I’d love to have.

Okay, how about new features?: “I’ll add an RSS feed in the coming days, since it’s a popular request and it’s trivial to implement. As for further expansion or advertising, I haven’t decided yet. It’s a very simple tool, and much of its appeal and usefulness is in its simplicity. I’d rather not add functionality unless it’s simple, it fits with the product, and I can implement it well.”


Ruud Hein

*Star*. I star items to read later or follow-up in Google Reader, Gmail — and via the toolbar also in Firefox.

*click* – starred. Retrievable from anywhere.

Judi Sohn

Juergen, that add-on is great. But if you use multiple browsers, then Instapaper is better. It’s so simple and straight-forward, it even works from my Blackberry browser. I can mark an article to read later, and then read it from *anywhere* (you have to set a password).


Seems like a smart hack! :)

But how do you get the bookmarklet to submit to the specific Instapaper account?

How do you stay logged in to more then one Instapaper account?

Heeelp! :D

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