Read It Later is a competitor to my Instapaper service. I was asked for a comparison via email, and rather than pretend like a competitor doesn’t exist1 and keep silent about it on my blog, I’m comfortable addressing it (oh no! giving traffic and attention to a competitor!) and clarifying the differences.
There are many features that are exclusive to only one of us. But if your needs fit into the overlap between both products, the reasons to choose one over the other are more fundamental.
We have very different styles and design philosophies. Read It Later started as a Firefox extension, and Instapaper started as a bookmarklet and an iPhone-optimized text parser. Both products show their respective roots throughout, in everything from visual design to feature selection and implementation.
They’re different enough that most users of one would not be satisfied using the other, so we’re not really competing for the same users. In that way, we’re hardly competitors at all, and both of us have been respectful of each other in not trying to step on each other’s toes too much.
My top priority is reaching the 99% of iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad owners who have never heard of either of us.
A lot of other copycat services have cropped up since Instapaper’s launch in January 2008, but most of them are web-only (the easy part) and don’t have iPhone or iPad apps or good text parsers. Read It Later, whose Firefox extension (but not web or iPhone app) actually predated Instapaper, is the only real alternative on this scale. ↩︎