So it’s time. It’s been a few weeks since betaworks took responsibility for Instapaper. With Marco’s cheerful, tireless help, we’ve dug into the infrastructure, explored its nooks and crannies, and mapped out a plan to upgrade performance and improve reliability. Details on that very soon.
But what’s really cool is that we’ve pulled together some first-rate talent to get to work on Instapaper. Following the usual betaworks model, we’re going to staff Instapaper with a small but scrappy team of dedicated developers (like, 2 or 3); in the short term, we’re also tapping the expertise of people across the betaworks family with skills in design and user experience, front-end web interfaces, mobile applications, back-end engineering, data science, operations, content extraction. With their help, we’re going to build a better Instapaper.
And that’s where you come in. We need the input of Instapaper users. We want to know what new features you’d like, what current features need tweaking, what functions should work better. For starters, Marco gave us his own pretty detailed to-do list, including some interesting things he’s built but not yet launched or completed. We also picked up a lot of feedback from recent Twitter traffic. If you have thoughts, we’d be grateful if you’d put them into writing and add them below, in the comments to this post. (We’ve switched on Disqus, which we use elsewhere and seems to be a solid platform for comments).
Here are some of the ideas we’ve seen already:
- Proceed with care: Instapaper is awesome; don’t screw it up. It’s a clean, elegant, and highly useful app; don’t clutter up the interfaces or feature sets. Do the basics really well, don’t add a million unnecessary features.
- Text: Improve the parser / text engine / content extractor. Make it so that every article is presented perfectly, with complete text and images where they’re supposed to appear.
- Web: Refresh the website design for Instapaper. Make it beautiful and more functional, without losing the simplicity. Add a search bar.
- Browser plug-ins: Build Instapaper browser extensions.
- Bookmarklet: Make the Instapaper bookmarklet work with Feedly and other RSS readers, just like it now does with Google Reader.
- Integrations: Improve Instapaper integration with Twitter and the leading Twitter clients, WordPress, Tumblr, Evernote, Dropbox, App.net. E.g., make it easier to save links from Twitter directly to Instapaper.
- Sync across devices: Remember and synchronize article reading progress across all the user’s devices.
- Start-up screen: Make the start-up screen something that’s not blindingly white, or at least not when the app is in night mode.
- Post-reading options: Add separate buttons for “Archive” and “Delete”, for one-touch action after reading an article.
- Mobile app design: Add some new, useful sidebar features to the mobile app. Add a shuffle button to pull up a random article from the unread queue. Add optional article counts for folders and the unread queue.
- iPad app design: Give iPad users the option to hide the sidebar.
- Kindle: Let users select specific articles to be sent to Kindle in their weekly batch, and to download an entire folder (perhaps up to some limit) to Kindle. Fix the way images appear on the Kindle.
- Subscription sites: Work with the New York Times and other subscription-supported sites to enable full-text access for subscribers.
- Highlighting, annotations, tags: Allow users to add, save, and share highlights and annotations. Enable user tagging of articles.
- RSS: Make it possible to ingest RSS feeds directly into Instapaper.
- Desktop: Build a desktop Instapaper application for OSX (and/or Windows and/or Linux).
- Unlike: Permit the unliking of liked articles.
- Security: Support secure cookies, default https, and https + HSTS headers.
Some of these are fantastic ideas, some perhaps not. At this point, we want to make sure we’ve got a reasonably complete grasp of Instapaper users’ ideas, suggestions, thoughts, and requests. We plan to do a ton of work on Instapaper over the coming months. We will do our best to keep you well-informed, to seek your feedback, and to make Instapaper better than it was before. Better… stronger… faster.