Read-It-Later Applications

What is it?

Read-It-Later Applications cater to the evolution of how people absorb information on the Internet. The Internet is filled with a vast and diverse amount of content that tends to overwhelm a user when directly faced with all it offers. Read-It-Later applications provide users with the opportunity to deeply explore the facets of the Internet in a fully engaged way. In a society where time is always of the essence, people tend to simply skim over content to maximize efficiency. Read-It-Later applications let users save the articles, images etc. that interest them for when they can devote the time to more thoroughly engage with the content. Saving articles for later differs from the previous installation of “bookmarking” because it encourages individuals to follow-up on the websites they save. Bookmarking is more often used for websites an individual uses every day. Read-It-Later is encouraged for websites that have content and individual is interested in more briefly, such as a news article. Read-It-Later applications are also designed to encourage users to re-visit the sites they save sooner rather than later, whereas bookmarking is designed to save sites permanently.


Although people have been able to “bookmark” their favorite websites, there hadn’t been a focused method for saving articles that interested users to read at a later time. There was a growing need for this because of the exponential output of content from the digital publishing revolution and blogging. The first concept of saving articles for later can be traced back to 2006-2007. August 6, 2007, Nate Weiner developed Read It Later, an extension for Firefox that put links in a different location than browser bookmarks. Read It Later allowed users to quickly and efficiently save multiple browser tabs with the click of a button.
Simultaneously, Marco Arment, a develop at Tumblr (blogging network), also felt the necessity to find an easier way to access articles and digital content at a different time. In January 2008, Arment launched Instapaper, a website that stores links users bookmark to conveniently access later. Instapaper made its debut on the iPhone in 2008, and was the first SDK for developers to build native apps. Instapaper evolved the concept of read-it-later applications because unlike Read It Later, Instapaper could be used on mobile platforms, increasing accessibility or users.

Case Studies



Evernote is a software service that can be downloaded to a variety of different platforms including laptops, smartphones and tablets. The application automatically synchs between all forms of the application using wireless technology. The service can be used with a free account or can be upgraded to a premium account, which offers more features, for a fee. Notes can be typed, but the software also supports image capture and voice recording which allows for more complete note taking and collections. The app also supports a web clipping feature that clients can use to capture and store information from the internet. This feature is what makes the application perfect for developing collections of notes, articles and images.



Instapaper is a browser plug-in that operates as a part of the user's web browser. The application works similar to the standard bookmarking service that is present on most browsers. The application can be used on a variety of platforms including smartphones (Android and iOS), computers, e-readers and tablets. The app is unique from competitors because it strips down the URL to provide the reader with a text-based page that has minimal distractions. Unlike many similar services, Instapaper is not a free application and requires users to pay a fee of $2-5 when creating an account. The application also does not support PDF files.



Pocket began as a browser plug-in that stripped content down to a text-based page (very similar to Instapaper) and was known as "Read It Later." Now Pocket has been rebranded and the application supports images and videos in addition to simple text. However, the application still strips pages of the usual clutter including advertisements and navigation buttons. The app can be used on Android and iOS platforms as well as numerous web browsers and synchs wirelessly between devices. Pocket is meant to save articles for viewing at a later time which may be offline.



Readability works in much the same way as both Instapaper and
Pocket. The application is a web browser plug-in that is supported by a number of platforms including smartphones (Android and iOS), laptops, tablets and e-readers. Similar to the previous two apps, Readability prides itself on removing the clutter from pages to give the user a more streamlined experience with less distractions. Users can create a free account and store web articles for later viewing.



  1. Enables users to add, annotate, edit, and share bookmarks of web documents.
  2. Useful as a way to access a consolidated set of bookmarks from various computers. It also organizes large bookmarks and these bookmarks can be shared with contacts, whether that be businesses, universities, libraries, etc.
  3. Libraries provide social bookmarking as an easy way to provide lists of links to students. University of Pennsylvania was one of the first with what they call ‘Penn Tags’


Susceptible to collusion and corruption. Spammers have been bookmarking identical pages multiple times, and sometimes tag each page of a site using popular tags. Developers of these sites have to constantly be on the lookout for this abuse, and generally are constantly editing their security software to prevent such issues.

To compare our case studies:

Professor Smith
Email newsletters.
RSS newsfeeds
Search engines
Folders in web browser for bookmarks
Finding a bookmark out of 100 is tough, as opposed to just searching google again.
In order to share bookmarks with students he has to email it.

Professor Brown

Has all the same needs as Professor Smith, but uses instead to manager her bookmarks.

When she finds a website to bookmark she ‘right clicks’ and ads it to her delicious account. She also tags with relevant keywords. The list is public, so it’s easy for colleagues and students to access it. When using delicious, Dr. Brown can also tell who bookmarked mutual sites.

“Dr. Brown has broken from the model of using private folders to organize information. Social bookmarking creates a true web of resources and connections, one that is not limited to individuals and their folders, but represents the interests and judgments of a community of users.”


The Future of Read-it Later Programs and Applications is not as apparent as it may seem. While there is room for large improvement, many critics are now suggesting that Read-it Later applications may not be as effective or innovative as previous. Due to the fact that many browsers, i.e. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, already come equipped with a “Read-it later” option, adding new innovative features to applications solely devoted for “Read-it Later” may be difficult. Despite this, some of the CEOs and Executives of such applications commented on what they deem as the future for Read-it Later Applications:

  1. Annotations & Highlighting - Similarly to to iBooks and Kindle, many believe that Read-it Later Applications ought to have the option of annotating and highlighting to enhance the user experience
  2. Note-searching - Searching through annotations or personal notes is a huge feature that is not fully supported at the moment
  3. Social Networking Compatibility - There is some social networking features embedded within many Read-it Later Apps now, but it is extremely limited and does not near its actual potential. Therefore, developers are trying to incorporate a seamless & streamlined social component to their Read-it Later Apps
  4. Read/Store EPUB files - EPUB files are common eBook formats that allows users to open and operate their electronic text on a computer or handheld device. In the future, developers would like to incorporate full operability for EPUB files because of their increasing popularity
  5. Two-factor authentication - Due to the fact that Evernote was hacked into recently, developers are in the process of creating a two-factor authentication method for added security
  6. Personalized content - depending on the time of day and/or the device you’re using, the content might be different and more personalized to those variables
  7. Extensions for multiple browsers - For more compatibility, popular Read-it Later applications are focusing on making their programs more user-friendly to the numerous browsers available.