Saving websites: Pocket’s bookmarks app and its alternatives
It’s hard to keep up with all the interesting, important, or just plain funny stuff you come across on the internet. You may come across something that you don’t have time to read right now, or that you want to save because it will come in handy later. But as most of us have found, creating a bookmark in a browser for every article and website that we want to read later can create a huge bookmarking mess.
Years ago I started to solve this problem by subscribing to Pocket, a popular and long-standing app that allows you to save a bookmarked article to a separate server and then retrieve it for reading at your leisure, either with a computer or mobile device. Pocket has been around since 2007; Originally called Read It Later, it started out as a Firefox browser extension, eventually became its own app, and was acquired by Mozilla in 2017.
However, recently I (and at least one other employee here at The edge) opened the app and found a warning that “all existing Pocket accounts must be converted to a Firefox account by June 30, 2022”. The reason according to Mozilla is “[p]Mozilla products use Firefox Accounts as a centralized and secure account system.” The company further suggests that this is a benefit for fans of the app, as they will now be able to add two-factor authentication and other security features use.
If you’re a Pocket user and already have a Firefox account or would like to create one, that’s no problem: just switch accounts (you have until June 30) and continue using Pocket as you always have. However, if for some reason you’re not ready to add a Firefox account, there are alternative apps that you can use to collect bookmarks for reading stuff.
What follows is a description of Pocket and four other bookmarking service apps. This is only a limited list, of course: they all offer free versions, and all (but one) sync across a variety of devices including web browsers, Android devices, and iPhones, among others. There are, of course, less specific alternatives — for example, note-taking apps like Evernote and Keep save and tag article links.
I’ve also linked instructions for both importing and exporting existing bookmarks; Most work in HTML format, and some also accept CSV and other file formats.
Pocket has developed a beautifully designed interface with many options to sort your items by newest or oldest, select favorites, view them in list or grid format, and archive the ones you want to keep or organize them via tags. The home screen (which is currently tagged ‘beta’) shows you your most recent saves along with what it bills as the ‘best of the web’. You can share your articles on social media or recommend them on the app for others to find. There are extensions for a variety of browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari, as well as apps for Android and iOS devices.
paid version: The premium version ($4.99 per month or $49.99 per year) adds a permanent library of everything you have stored (in case it disappears from the web), as well as full-text search and other features.
Export instructions – Import instructions
Like Pocket, Instapaper started out as a simple web add-on and has gone through multiple iterations (and owners); currently it is part of an independent company called Instant Paper. The web app has a beautifully simple interface; While there’s no grid view, you can toggle thumbnails on and off. It caters to (and syncs with) web browsers (with a Chrome extension, Safari extension, Firefox extension, or a bookmarklet), iOS, Android, and Kindle. With a free account, you can store an unlimited number of articles, videos, and other content. You can also highlight text in the articles you save, create up to five notes per month, and edit each article’s name, link, or summary.
paid version: The premium version ($2.99/month or $29.99/year) adds full-text search for your saved documents, unlimited notes, and text-to-speech.
Export instructions – Import instructions (accessible only to registered users)
Raindrop might not have the simplicity of Instapaper, but it has a ton of features that might be helpful, especially if you’re serious about your information gathering. The web version lets you view your articles in a variety of formats, including an interesting format called a moodboard. Like most others listed here, the free version of Raindrop offers unlimited bookmarks on unlimited devices; This includes apps for Macs, iOS devices, Android devices, and extensions for Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge browsers. You can share with others and edit titles, tags, and descriptions.
paid version: The Pro version ($3/month or $28/year) adds full-text search, cloud backup, and a permanent library of all your bookmarked websites.
Export instructions – Import instructions
Paperspan is an old-fashioned, basic app that’s fine if you want a really basic bookmarking service. You can create separate folders for your saved bookmarks, but that’s about it. Unlike the other three services listed here, there are no pretty graphics, no highlights, no choice between lists and grids — you don’t even read the article within the app, you’re just taken straight to the original article. Most readers will likely miss these other features, but if you’re interested in the bare basics, you might want to try it.
paid version: none
Export instructions – import instructions (Click on “Import” in the side menu)
Matter is a brand new, still-development app currently only available for iOS devices and web (although you’ll need to install it on iOS first); an android app is sometimes promised for the future. The app is much better at following social media favorites and finding new influencers than just bookmarking. You can add your email address to read your newsletters, follow specific Tweeters, sync with apps like Readwise and Notion, and send articles to Kindle. Currently, the mobile app is the way to go; The web version simply shows websites from your queue with no other features. If you want to integrate your existing Pocket sites, do so by connecting to the app (instead of importing data). Currently the app is free with no premium tiers. All in all an interesting app with potential.
Export instructions: In the app, select Settings > Export your data
Import Instructions: In the app, select Settings > Connected Accounts