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Instapaper is going independent (instapaper.com)
304 points by uptown 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 188 comments



Instapaper is still not available to users in EU. It's been to months. I started to use Pocket because of this and now I don't think I'm coming back.


Same here. I could understand some downtime if GPDR was suddenly sprung on them but everyone had time to prepare. I could also understand them not caring about me as a single user (not deluded here), but since I pay for the service I'm sadly all fresh out of understanding. Instapaper has been great but Pocket doesn't seem to be lacking much as far as what I need.


Which part of GDPR is confusing to you? They did their research and turned out that in terms of profits the market is unstable if you want to open yourself up to potential GDPR litigations you are riskin more than its worth it.

Don’t wait anymore. They probably not coming ever again unless GDPR is voided.


Oh please stop with this FUD already. Risk assessments on GDPR litigation are blown wildly out of proportion. If we approached the risk of all laws in all jurisdictions this way, we'd just wake up and commit seppuku every morning. The only services that actually need to shut down are ones that are monetizing based on personal data. Small SaaS services that aren't doing that can be fully GDPR compliant with a little bit of copy writing and self-service options for deleting/downloading personal data, and even if you don't do all that, in all likelihood, on the off chance that they actually get significant complaints about small services, regulators will give you a chance to justify your stance and make necessary remediations before throwing the book at you.


If what you are saying is true, why would a business choose to shut down their EU services until some later date?

Do they hate making money? Did they just want to make people panic about GDPR(after it had already been implemented)? Are their lawyers just really bad at their jobs?

Seriously. What is their motivations from your perspective?


Probably incompetence.

1) Don’t think about users’ privacy from the start. 2) Ignore GDPR until the enforcement deadline. 3) Panic and shut down EU until you find something to do.


>> The only services that actually need to shut down are ones that are monetizing based on personal data. Small SaaS services that aren't doing that can be fully GDPR compliant with a little bit of copy writing and self-service options for deleting/downloading personal data

> If what you are saying is true, why would a business choose to shut down their EU services until some later date?

> Do they hate making money? ...

> Seriously. What is their motivations from your perspective?

Don't assume businesses are making rational decisions just because they're businesses. Their motivations may very well be that their leader irrationally freaked out after reading some anti-GDPR FUD, overreacted, and hasn't yet reevaluated the decision.


Of course it's FUD, thats almost the definition of of risk. "Risk assessments on GDPR litigation are blown wildly out of proportion." because there's a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

I just don't think it's particularly unjustified FUD. It is a big law that made a big splash. Can you really blame anyone who wants to wait and see how it goes down?

There IS a ton of guess work for now. To take either stance with so much certainty is a little dishonest IMHO. And I think you agree! You say yourself "... in all likelihood, on the off chance ..." Is "better safe than sorry" really so unreasonable.


>Risk assessments on GDPR litigation are blown wildly out of proportion.

Are there any precedents set for GDPR enforcement yet? No? Then how can you know that?


Little in GDPR is completely new, lots of it has been in national law or previous EU legislation before, and the entities responsible for enforcement aren't new, so you can look at past privacy enforcement actions as at least some precedent.


Isn't the worst case 4% of global turnover? Shouldn't Instapaper's EU revenue be far above that?


It is the whichever is greater of 20 million Euros or 4 percent of annual turnover.


I see. That must seem brutal to small businesses.


There's also the proportionality clauses to consider. The law explicitly states that the penalty should be proportionate, so that small companies aren't hit with huge fines.


The fines are supposed to be proportional. Everyone has latched on to the $40mm clause, and decided that anyone in breach of GDPR rules is going to be fined millions of dollars.


What copywriting is necessary? I haven't done anything on my stuff.


Explaining what you are doing with customers' data.


> Risk assessments on GDPR litigation are blown wildly out of proportion.

Easy to say when you're telling someone else to take the risk.


Just to be clear, I have skin in the game.


Wait, what? I didn't say GDPR was confusing to me. Also, they said they'll be compliant in some time in the future so I don't really see what you're getting at here. Hope it's just a misunderstanding ;)

The thing is I don't want to be without such a service for a longer period of time so I'm sadly probably not coming back.


Plenty of people are still playing in the EU market and not... does Instapaper know something everyone else doesn't?


Hey zulrah, we are working on GDPR and plan to have the service available in the EU as soon as possible. Hope to have you back on Instapaper when we become available in the EU again. Really sorry for the inconvenience.


I don't think you can piss on customers for 2 months and then drop a "sorry for the inconvenience".

And for no good reason.

Just assume the improbable cost of some litigation as a company, like tens of thousands of others (including much bigger and much smaller than yours) did, put up a message to European customers and have them click and proceed as usual to the service.

Or, you know, use the headstart of more than a year before the law was put into practice to get the service in order...


I'm not sure why the above is getting downvoted. Sure, it's a bit salty, but if I were paying for instapaper (which I realise is cheap as chips, but the principle still stands) I don't think I'd be very impressed with being locked out for two months.

Genuine question: as an EU citizen, without the use of a VPN or proxy is it still possible to at least log on to the service to cancel your account?


I never understand why people assume that services that charge money will be more responsive to users' concerns than free services. You are worth the revenue that you generate, whether that money comes from you paying or indirect means like advertising doesn't matter to the company at all.


Not an EU citizen, but I'd think it'd be pretty shady if they cut you off and didn't automatically suspend any subscription charges until they can properly serve you again.


> and didn't automatically suspend any subscription charges

Instapaper is not a subscription-based service. The product is completely free on all platforms today.

I think the app was a one-time purchase at launch but it has been free for many years. All of the Premium features were also made free when Premium was discontinued in 2016 shortly after the Pinterest acquisition.


I found no such way, but I emailed their support and asked them to delete my account which they did no questions asked.


I could understand the outrage if this was a service you were paying for.

But this is a Free service being provided to you. Why do you believe you have the right to dictate how someone else uses their time when you're not paying for it?


I believe that I have the right to demand that someone else doesn't use their time to burglarize my house, and if they and other companies have made a side business of burglarizing peoples houses, I think it's entirely resonable to demand that they and any similar company spend time proving that they aren't planning to continue.

(And yes, I realize the houses in this metaphor rarely have doors in their doorways, much less locks, so it's techinally not burglary, but frankly I don't care.)


That analogy makes no sense.

The proper analogy would be: You invite a volunteer carpenter in to fix your cabinets. He asks if he can write down what cereal your family eats instead of taking payment. You say sure! (ie agree to the terms of service).

New law passes. He refuses to come back and fix your cabinets for free next time because he doesn’t want to get sued for writing down the cereal names improperly.

You then scream at him and call him names, and try to ruin his reputation on the internet and accuse him of being a thief.

Maybe if the sanctity of what cereal your family eats is so important to you, you should just directly pay money to a normal carpenter next time?


>He refuses to come back and fix your cabinets for free next time

First, Instapaper is a continuous service. If you store something, you want access to it again. It's not a series of one-off, independent services.

So, no, they didn't just "refused to come back and fix your cabinets for free next time". They gave you a space to write your notes and store your links, and then they denied access to that for 2 months (and counting).

Second, you forgot the part where Instapaper had paid services for years, and that many people who are denied service today, had paid good money and stick with it. They weren't asked if they wanted it to br made free and unreliable either.


>I could understand the outrage if this was a service you were paying for.

So, if Gmail was closed to the free tier European users for 2 months+, they should be OK, because "they didn't pay for it"?

>But this is a Free service being provided to you. Why do you believe you have the right to dictate how someone else uses their time when you're not paying for it?

That's an argument for the 1950s economy, this is 2018. We have other models, such as ads, user profiling, even pure eyeballs as a M&A/IPO monetisation strategies. Just because the user doesn't paid doesn't mean money aren't made from the user using the service. Except if one believe they run it from the goodness of their hearts at a loss, but then they probably also believe in the Tooth Fairy.

Not to mention that Instapaper used to actually charge too. If someone paid for the app or premium later for years, is it ok if they "make it free" and then deny access to their account for 2 months?


> piss on customers for 2 months and then drop a "sorry for the inconvenience".

I thought Instapaper was a free service that Pinterest bought mainly for it's article parsing technology? As an analogy FB's customers are advertisers and media agencies who pay to keep the lights on as is Pinterest's, users are not the customers.


In any case, people (including people who had paid before it was made free) had their data in it -- and lost service for 2 months. Even at free, would you be OK with e.g. Gmail (also free) or FB closing down for 2 months and then coming back with an "oopsie"?


Isn't that exactly what you said a couple months ago?

At this point it's pretty concerning that you still have nothing to say publicly except "we're working on it", no detail, no schedule, no nothing.


Well, considering there are apparently only two people working on Instapaper, it's not hard to come up with reasons why it might take more than two months or why they might not be conducting a detailed PR campaign about it


Well, considering that GDPR has been voted two years ago and is based on 20-years-old EU privacy laws, even if it took 6 months or 2 years it still wouldn’t be a valid excuse.

Also, giving a bit of detail or a minimal schedule is easier than a PR campaign. It’s called transparency, and it works even if you’re alone on a project.


Except "20-years-old EU privacy laws" didn't risk 4% of global revenue. It also didn't risk activist lawsuits.

https://www.theverge.com/2018/5/25/17393766/facebook-google-...

Funny thing how DailyMotion isn't getting sued, but YouTube's parent company is.


> Except "20-years-old EU privacy laws" didn't risk 4% of global revenue. It also didn't risk activist lawsuits.

That’s the point. When there’s no risk, nobody cares about their users’ privacy. That’s not an excuse for shutting down now that it’s legally risky to disrespect your users.


There's nothing funny; nobody uses or cares about DailyMotion.

Also, nobody got sued, ignorant reporters notwithstanding. Schrems only filed complaints with the regulators.


Short of selling everyone's reading habits to the lowest bidder.. what on earth needs changing?

Edit: To clarify I'm not saying they do that, I just can't see what part of GDPR they're having trouble with


Perhaps that's because you are not a part of the corporation. Why would you expect to have insight into their operations?


I don’t expect that, I’m wondering out loud in the hopes someone may be able to shine a light on something I’ve not considered

From my point of view they store a list of URLs and provide a way to nicely view the content of those URLs. What in that could be causing 2 months of downtime to fix?


And you have no understanding to the current situation? You know, the very reason this thread is here to begin with.


To be honest, nothing about GDPR compliance was a surprise. The law was passed in 2016. That's plenty of time get your house in order, and yet here you are over a month past due, with an oops, sorry. What gives?


When did you start on the GDPR-related work?


shameless plug here, if you'd like to read pocket articles on kindle go check out my free, open-source service - https://sejka.github.io/PocketToKindle/


I don't mean to sound trite or dismissive, but the blame should be directed at EU legislators.

If I create another software product I will explicitly and permanently make it unavailable to EU residents.


If your product can't follow the GDPR legislation then I'm glad you don't allow EU residents to use it. Since you are most likely abusing the privacy of your customers.

While I'm a bit annoyed at the amount of paperwork and side systems that need to be constructed to ensure proper handling of personal data that I have had to implement, I can only see GDPR as something positive for the people.


I removed all my apps from the EU, and I will no longer publish any future apps there unless they become wildly successful in another country first.

My apps are tiny, free, and just not worth the hassle of figuring out what GDPR compliance is (even though they are likely GDPR compliant already since I don't store any info).

I think we're going to see a lot of small indie developers just not publish to the EU until it makes financial sense (which might be never). And that's exactly what happened here: Instapaper is a two-person team and they didn't have the time or resources to ensure compliance, so they just kept letting it slide.

I suspect we'll see much more of this to come for the EU.


I don't see why the above is downvoted.

Yes, GDPR may be beneficial and all, but thinking that it does not have an associated cost of a higher barrier to entry is a bit myopic.


I would certainly recommend reading up on the GDPR legislation. There are plenty of summaries that are good and covers the important aspects. Because once you understand GDPR, complience can follow naturally while you develop your application. Even if you dont serve customers in EU, GDPR complience will benefit non EU residents as well, since you have then implemented tooling for proper management of private information.

And if your application doesn't store data, then it's a one time cost essentially. Which is the time spent reading up on the legislation.


> Because once you understand GDPR, complience can follow naturally while you develop your application

How do I naturally during development acquire an Article 27 representative?


In addition, just noticed that Bonobos withdrew from the EEC due to GDPR

"Due to the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), we're currently unable to offer products and services to customers in the European Economic Community. We apologize for the inconvenience."


Why should EU residents not be allowed to decide what they want to use and not use? I'm not sure I understand why the EU makes laws that effectively decide what websites "free" people are allowed to visit.


For similar reasons that “free” people aren’t allowed to visit restaurants with health code violations.

People have to be able to make informed decisions. It’s hard to tell from the outside if a restaurant is safe, so we have inspections. It’s impossible to tell if a website is trustworthy with your personal data, so we have laws to try and ensure they will be.

You really don’t understand this?


Sorry, but that’s a preposterous analogy. Seeing targeted ads won’t harm me in any way. I don’t give a damn about this sort of tracking. You may feel differently, but I don’t, and am perfectly capable of evaluating the risks and benefits for myself.

What I do give a damn about is not being able to read some quality publications that rationally decided GDPR is not worth the risk.

Not a week passes without such a reminder that I’m now living behind the Great EU Firewall. I now live in a place where I need to use a VPN to access all of the Internet, for crying out loud.

And that’s not to mention the click through acceptances of terms an every fucking site, that’s “only” annoying as hell (which nobody reads anymore and thus GDPR changed exactly nothing in it’s supposed goal).

EU’s bureaucratic zeal made, via GDPR, my life worse, with no benefit, even theoretical, for me. So please spare us the lecture on how GDPR is good for us. It’s terrible even for consumers.


This narrative has long since become tired.

If you don't respect your users' privacy you don't deserve to do business in the EU. And make no mistake: whether you like it or not, that legislation - or something very like it - is going to jump the Atlantic sooner or later, so why not position yourself ahead of the curve instead of stropping off and taking your ball home?

There are side-effects I don't like about GDPR, like the endless bombardment of overwrought cookie consents on every site I visit (definitely something that degrades the experience of the web), but I do like the fact that my privacy has to be respected by corporations.


The cookie foolishness started as an a EU Directive that was adopted in May 2011.

It doesn't have anything to do with GDPR, but it's a fantastic example of (likely) well-intended European privacy regulation both is utterly useless and also stands zero chance of jumping the Atlantic.


There is a difference between respecting your customers’ privacy, and obeying the letter of the law regarding a set of artificial rituals surrounding your customers’ privacy. You can be completely compliant with the spirit of GDPR (e.g. by not storing any data in the first place), while also not wanting to spend the energy ensuring you are compliant with the letter of GDPR.


Cookie notifications have nothing to do with GDPR.


Tell that to all the companies implementing them. Now, if you click on the option to configure your cookie options you're presented with an often bewildering list of different cookie types that companies use for a variety of purposes. By either clicking "yes to all" (or similar) or selecting individual items from the list (or deselecting all) you're supposedly providing the informed consent that GDPR requires. Frankly I think often this is so confusing as to make a mockery of the whole process.


But they do: they are textbook example of unintended consequences of well-meant legislation.

GDPR is becoming that on steroids: the only thing that changed was for the worse: some sites outright banned EU visitors, the rest started using obnoxious terms screens that are even worse than cookie bars. Nothing really changed.

Anybody with half a brain could have seen this coming. But no, let’s double down on the same thing with GDPR. This time it will surely go down differently...


I want to do business with them, though, and am prevented from doing so because I live in EU.


> If you don't respect your users' privacy you don't deserve to do business in the EU.

So you're going to make the decision of what constitutes "respecting my privacy" for every single person in the EU?


Me? No. That's what the legislation does.


s/you/politicians. And your original comment implies you agree with it.


Yes, I agree with having my privacy protected. Do I think the legislation is perfect? No, but I think I already made that clear.


> Yes, I agree with having my privacy protected.

This is equivocating.

The issue is not whether you agree with having your privacy protected. The issue is deciding what constitutes "respecting privacy" for every single person in the EU, and threatening people with violence if they disagree.


You can choose not to visit sites that don't respect your privacy. You could already do that before GDPR.


Cool, I just need a list of such products so I don't use them anywhere in the world.


A war on GDPR sounds kind of trite though.


EU legislators gave you 20 years of discussing the law in public, 2 years between passing the law and it coming into force.

That’s more than enough time.


https://twitter.com/alexeheath/status/1018903893814775810

> Some clarification from a Pinterest spokesperson: The two employees Pinterest brought on from the Instapaper acquisition will continue working at Pinterest and run Instapaper independently on the side. So sounds like Instapaper wasn’t really working out inside of Pinterest.


From what I’ve seen this is usually what happens when the parent company wants to close the service down. First they spin off the service into its own company then the company shuts down because of a lack of income.

Is that what’s happening here? What’s the name of this process?


Hi Brad, Brian from Instapaper here. Just want to reassure you that's not the case here, we intend to operate Instapaper for the foreseeable future. We made this decision because we believe it’s best for both Pinterest and Instapaper.


Why is this better for Pinterest and/or Instapaper?

In the 2016 blog post announcing the acquisition: http://blog.instapaper.com/post/149374303661

> All of these features and developments revolved around the core mission of Instapaper, which is allowing our users to discover, save, and experience interesting web content. In that respect, there is a lot of overlap between Pinterest and Instapaper. Joining Pinterest provides us with the additional resources and experience necessary to achieve that shared mission on a much larger scale.

Is that no longer true? Was it ever true?


It rarely makes any sense for a large multibillion dollar company to operate a tiny business that has no material impact on its financials. It's like Bill Gates owning a taco truck -- even though it might be a perfectly financially viable taco truck, it's always going to be just a little random thing he has, and pretty much any involvement he has with the truck's operator/management will be disruptive.


M&A guy here - despite what finance people will say, a majority of acquisitions do not end up realizing their planned strategy.


Good to know, but to this specific case, if someone (basically) says "This is not a spinoff to let it die, but to flourish on it's own", it's nice to have them explain why they are credible when they (or previous company rep) previously said "This is not a purchase to let it die, to but to flourish as part of the collective". Just give an actual reason why this time will be different. I already know not to trust M&A statements unless they give specific plans.


I can't agree more - I wouldn't trust an organization that can't explain that to you.


I'm guessing something changing between 2016 and now. Maybe it was rate of growth, or how well Instapaper fits into Pinterest's product strategy going forward. There's all sorts of reasons it might've made sense at the time to acquire them, and for it to make sense now to let them go. You tend to not get real answers to these kinds of questions from companies, though.


I think the word "acquihire" would explain a lot.


This is the right kind of question to be asking. Huge, influential companies shouldn't get away with making bullshit statements that don't mean anything. At least they shouldn't get away with it as much as they do.


Synergies can turn out to not materialize post acquisition. Not a bad thing if the acquisition can be unraveled. Kudos to Pinterest for not just nuking Instapaper.


Look at Brian's comment history: https://news.ycombinator.com/threads?id=bthdonohue.

He's not active on HN, but he jumps in for quick damage control and "clarification" when people have vaguely privacy-related or operational questions about Instapaper. When followup questions are posed, particularly more difficult ones, he never responds. So I find it very unlikely you're going to get an answer here, because this account is clearly designed to do low-touch public reassurance without much commitment or transparency.

Now take a look at Instapaper's privacy policy: https://www.instapaper.com/privacy. In particular, direct your attention to the following, under "The Way We Use Information":

(P1) We use the information you provide to operate Instapaper's features. We do not share this information with outside parties except to the extent necessary to accomplish Instapaper's functionality.

(P3) We use non-identifying and aggregate information to better design Instapaper, to suggest popular content to users, and to share with advertisers and publishers. For example: ...

(P6) In the future, we may sell, buy, merge, or partner with other companies or businesses. In such transactions, user information may be among the transferred assets.

The "License Grant" section of the Terms of Service is also good reading, because it indicates that they can use user data in perpetuity, even after closing your Instapaper account (presumably until you explicitly request your information being deleted). What do you suppose that is used for? Maybe Brian can enlighten us.

My hypothesis is that Instapaper, either from the outset or somewhere prior to being acquired by Pinterest, developed a monetization model dependent upon selling user data (or derivative analysis/features of user data) to third parties. Most likely this is provided for market research or advertising optimization. Note that in their Privacy Policy Instapaper also states they use cookies "and other tracking technology" (and they specifically do not enumerate the full number of reasons which they do so, aside from normal login and session maintenance) in their Privacy Policy.

Further, I'm going to go ahead and assume this can be explained through basic cynicism. This monetization model was probably never terribly significant for Pinterest, except insofar as it was useful for internal discussions and inspirations for ways Pinterest could improve upon their own user data analysis. When GDPR came along, this probably tipped the scales to make Instapaper a net liability for the company (and not one in line with its financial or brand goals). Thus we have Instapaper being cut lose, yet again.


I read HN regularly, but I'm pretty much a lurker on all social channels. When there's a conversation relevant to me or the products I work on, I like to jump in to represent the relevant company or products.

With respect to follow ups, I usually respond and move on to other things. I do my best to be open and transparent in online communities like these.

Moving onto your privacy concerns there are two things I'd like to say...

* Instapaper has always done hard deletes of user data when you delete articles or your account, it's been done that way since the Marco days.

* We have never monetized using user data, or developed any type of special targeted advertising for Instapaper.


"We have never" does not mean "we will never" does it? The legal terms doesn't seem to preclude it from happening. Most companies don't have agreements with data orgs until they have the juicy data. It's easy to say "we probably won't sell it" until the board sees the value of the accrued data in a couple of years. instapaper could make it more explicit that it's not going to happen in the terms rather than social media posts by an employee.


1. If Instapaper "hard deletes" user data when a user deletes their account, what precisely does the License Grant language mean when it states Instapaper has a "worldwide, non-exclusive, perpetual, royalty-free, fully paid, sublicensable and transferable license" to the User Content "including after your termination of your Account or the Services."? This is from "Instapaper Application License", section (a) of the Instapaper Terms of Service [1].

2. You've just said, "We have never monetized using user data, or developed any type of special targeted advertising for Instapaper." How is this statement congruent with paragraph 3 of "The Way We Use Information" in the Instapaper Privacy Policy [2]? Quoting:

- We may tell an advertiser or publisher that X number of people visited a certain area on our website

- We may tell an advertiser or publisher that X number of people bookmarked Z stories from a particular site or topic.

I'm going to be blunt with you, Brian: I don't believe what you're saying to me right now. At best I believe you're stating things which are superficially true but skating around the spirit of people's intent when they ask about privacy policies and how user data is being used.

Unless you have a fantastic answer for these two questions, I don't see how what you've just said is reconcilable with your privacy policy or terms of service. Literally "selling" user data is not the only way in which user data is monetized. Monetizing user data by providing derivative or curated analytics pertaining to that data is also substantial monetization of that user data. If advertisers developed their own special targeting for Instapaper users on or off the Instapaper platform based on the data you shared with them, then as a matter of fact yes, you did help in developing specialized targeting for advertisements.

To summarize thus far: you have effectively given me a non-answer, in consideration of the statements on Instapaper's TOS and Privacy Policy. And despite taking the time to respond to my comment (presumably because I challenged you directly), you have not responded to the parent commenter who originally asked you the question that started this thread.

EDIT: I'm not sure what's triggering these downvotes, but if someone downvoting has a substantial refutation or insight, it would be nice if you shared with the class instead of just pressing a button. As it stands Brian has not responded to the substance of my point, and it seems virtually self-evident according to the Privacy Policy that Instapaper monetizes user data. It's not much of a leap from there to assume that this revenue was no longer worth it for Pinterest after GDPR came into effect.

__________________________

1. https://www.instapaper.com/terms

2. https://www.instapaper.com/privacy


Your quotes from the privacy policy do not describe “targeted advertising”. Indeed, the section you quoted from has this preamble:

> We use non-identifying and aggregate information to better design Instapaper, to suggest popular content to users, and to share with advertisers and publishers.

and this afterwards:

> When information is used in this or a similar manner, we do not disclose anything that could be used to identify the individuals on whom the information is based.

I suppose using aggregate data in that manner could technically be described as “monetiz[ing] using user data”, but it’s not the type of activity most people are worried about (nor, incidentally, something that would implicate the GDPR).

As for the ToS license grant, it’s presumably the type of cover-your-ass wording lawyers always put into those agreements. I’m not a fan of the practice myself, but it’s not really evidence that Instapaper does, or intends to, use user data after deletion. Also, it might be intended to address backups, though I’m just speculating.


Yeah, if Instapaper didn't do shady things with user data GDPR wouldn't take more than a couple of days to add support for, instead of the 2+ years it's been.


Great analysis, thanks.

Your points make me wonder... If you're running a small successful and independent sass, that respects its users, and you want to move on. What do you do, if your only options are selling to a large company that won't respect your users, or shutting down? Is it plausible to find a buyer that will honestly maintain a user-respecting ethos? If not, then it seems that there are no good choices for a founder in this position.


I know of one company which explicitly has this approach: http://tiny.website/

> We won't try to flip your business in 3-5 years. We won't mess with your team and culture. We won't lock you into golden handcuffs or push complex deal terms. We won't ruin your life with months of unnecessary due diligence. We won't renegotiate and grind you on terms.

> …

> We started Tiny to create the buyer we wish we could have sold to.

Background: https://medium.com/@awilkinson/the-berkshire-hathaway-of-the...

To my knowledge, no one else makes similar commitments to both keep good things as-is and also to buy and hold indefinitely. At least from the outside, Tiny's model is unique.


I started reading your comment assuming you were stating a small business that was making a pre-commitment not to "sell out". I was pleasantly surprised to see you were highlighting a company that is "safe" to "sell out" TO.

Even though I hate the fallout that impacts me as a user, I'm generally happy to see financial success come to those that made something cool (if you didn't make promises to the contrary). Committing to NOT selling out tends to just tie the hands (and wallets) of those that are giving me what I want, so that doesn't seem to be a good option. But this is a good option, at least as advertised: Sell out to someone that will try to make sure your customers don't resent the results.

Looking over their list of companies I don't believe I've worked with any of them - does anyone have actual experiences to share?


I’ve know the CEO of a Tiny-affiliated company for a few years and consider him a friend. In a previous role, we had a very close partnership with the company. I also worked at the company, albeit only for a few months in a leadership role.

Andrew and the rest of the Tiny crew seem to do a great job of standing behind what they say, from my limited experience.


Cant look at it, cause of Instapaper is temporarily unavailable for users in Europe


And how does that factor in to the acquisition or spinoff?


See the last paragraph of my comment. That's my hypothesis.


Are you going to unblock EU users? If so when?


They have to get there shit together. So looks like the USA users are screwed since they can not apply to GDPR


From the EU, you shut it down two months ago.

And (tinfoil /on) if you were planning on winding down, compliance development is exactly the kind of thing that would be stopped. Shutter that, prior to shuttering everything else.


Are you going to comment on the ongoing GDPR saga?


That's not always the case, another anecdotal counter-point. I led the "independent" spin off of Jungle Disk from Rackspace 2.5 years ago now[1] and we're actively investing (more than 3x the R&D spend), growing our services, and making acquisitions of our own[2].

[1] https://therivardreport.com/jungle-disk-finds-a-home-in-down... [2] https://www.xconomy.com/texas/2017/12/05/jungle-disk-buys-ca... / https://www.startupssanantonio.com/jungle-disk-announces-acq...


From what I’ve seen this is usually what happens when the parent company wants to close the service down.

Not always. Fastmail was bought (back) from Opera by employees and they are doing fine.


Yes we are :) It's rare enough to be notable though. We enjoyed our time with Opera (especially me: I got to live in Oslo for 2 years), but there are definitely nice things about being independent and choose your own destiny.

That and Opera was turning more into an advertising company, which wasn't a close fit with our existing user base. It's great to be in a position where we don't have split loyalties and "shadow customers" - leaving us able to focus on what's best for the people paying us for the service we provide.


> It's great to be in a position where we don't have split loyalties and "shadow customers" - leaving us able to focus on what's best for the people paying us for the service we provide.

I wish more companies adopted this approach to commerce.


Is it? Usually when a company wants to shut a service down they just do it.

It's a lot of work to spin the company and losing talented people that they might want to keep.


Instapaper is an anomaly. It's been passed around like a stepchild since birth. I think there is a perceived-value fallacy around the number of people who use it or the intelligence that can be gleaned from knowing what people are bookmarking... but it looks like no one has been able to crack that nut. Every few years it gets passed to someone else. Nothing really ever changes... it just gets a new owner.


It changes. When Pinterest acquired, it offered all features for free for all users (it used to be a freemium model). I hope it doesnt change back, but I understand if they do. It's fair.


> It's been passed around like a stepchild since birth

Didn't Marco create it and run it independently for over 5 years?


He sold it around the time of the tumblr acquisition by Yahoo. Marco was the first employee of Tumblr and even though he didn’t work there at the time of the acquisition he made a few million off of the sale.

I guess that gave him some runway to try new things.

Besides, it seems like the team from Betaworks has been working on Instapaper since then.


> It's been passed around like a stepchild since birth

I'm not sure how your reply relates to the statement I was replying to?

I looked it up on Marco's about page and he did run it for 5 years before selling it in 2013.

https://marco.org/about

I guess I don't see how that's "being passed around... since birth."


He ran it for five years and then the team who ran it has been constant since then.


It would be great to get insider info on why Pinterest thought it is great acquisition target. I never really understand the point of this deal.


Counterexample: Reddit was acquired by Conde Nast and then spun out.

Although honestly I am not a fan of the recent UI changes, which are presumably done for monetization. An explanation would be nice as I am mystified. I guess a redesign is a way to make more room for ads without making it completely obvious.


It is more like a management buyout. Management thinks they can do better as a stand-alone, and ownership wants to sell it.

If a company puts a specific operation in its own legal entity, then it usually wants to sell it, or segregate risk, or for tax planning.


This seems like the exact opposite of that. If Pinterest wanted Instapaper gone they'd just nuke it. I actually give them kudos for spinning it out and giving it a chance to survive, especially considering I was one of the cynical ones on the HN thread of the original announcement taking it as a given that Instapaper would get Incredible Journeyed.


Are there examples of when this happened? In every case I can remember the parent company just shuts the service down.


Look for how much debt the subsidiary is taking with them. The key advantage of such spinoffs, over just closing the doors, is that you can also spin away some red ink. You know things are doomed if the spunoff has either debts or onerous contractual obligations from the parent.


Was GDPR so terrifying that they had to sell it off?


I was a hardcore Instapaper premium user from the early beginnings. Nothing stopped me for continuing using the app, BUT the GDPR.

When you have duties of protect user's data and you don't comply with it, I'm done. Months ago I changed to Pocket (Mozilla owned) and I'm ok with that. I missed little stuff like the text render and other minimum things.

Just wanted to say that because protecting user's privacy is also a business model.


If you felt strongly about user privacy I'm surprised you waited until GDPR. Why didn't you switch before?


Not OP but I guess the lack of privacy wasn’t visible before GDPR.


Background Info for users outside of Europe: Instapaper has been geoblocked for European users for the last two months.


Pocket (https://getpocket.com) isn’t blocked and is now owned by Mozilla. I’m an European and a heavy Pocket user and it had no downtime.

That Instapaper blocks EU users is fishy to say the least. What it means is that they are probably selling user data and cannot keep doing it without informing users of it.

I can’t express how grateful I am for GDPR.


>What it means is that they are probably selling user data and cannot keep doing it without informing users of it.

It seems like you'd have to willfully misunderstand the requirements of GDPR to argue that the only reason for non-compliance is that 'they are probably selling user data'.

However, if you can instead imagine that two employees might not want to manually manage GDPR requests for a userbase of two million users (in their free time, no less!) then you might come up with other likely reasons for non-compliance. For example, I wouldn't want to architect a backup system that deletes user info from my backups whenever I receive a GDPR request.


If the service can’t delete a couple hundred links, representing private interests I might want to erase, then it’s not a service I’d like to use. Deleting my data is an ability that I want in all the services that I use.

Also I do know what the GDPR requirements are, as I’ve been in charge of GDPR compliance. While we may disagree on how easy or hard it is to implement it, there’s nothing in it that’s not common sense, which shouldn’t need a law for companies to implement.

Tip: if you’re doing backups, encrypt them with the user’s key and on deletion just throw away the key. Not rocket science.


I don't think that helps unless I don't back up the user's key too.


And only gave the users one days notice before locking them out.

I will never again trust instapaper, independent company or not.


Is it still blocked? It works here, but some geo DBs locate me in Russia because my ISP bought the IP address I use from there recently.


Still blocked for me. C'mon now, I get it as an emergency measure, I get it when LA Times does it since they aren't interested in European visitors; but this here is just plain lazy.


Nobody is really GDPR-ready, however, data privacy law is about being good enough. Yep, there isn’t full compliance ever. Instapaper looks very desperate with its GDPR-lockout of EU users. I guess the EU market is mostly lost …


If only the EU gave these companies a 2-year headstart to become compliant. Oh wait.


Even if you are 100% compliant, that doesn't protect you from getting sued or having to answer potentially hundreds of thousands of inquiries.

The compliance risk is what's dangerous and challenging, not the actual "fixing" of systems. Many people in these comments seem to have no experience with business risk management. They think it's as simple as "just make data deletable." But, the technical side is the easy part. It's the getting sued part that's potentially catastrophic. Even if you "win" you still have spent thousands or tens of thousands defending. And even if you do win, you could be sued again the very next day.

GDPR is more than just deleting data, it's a massive business risk to even companies doing it "right."


> Even if you are 100% compliant, that doesn't protect you from getting sued or having to answer potentially hundreds of thousands of inquiries.

You can be sued at essentially anytime for any reason, long before the GDPR. If you're worried about a GDPR lawsuit ruining your company then you're either violating the GDPR or you should have shut down already because the risk was already there.


> If you're worried about a GDPR lawsuit ruining your company then you're either violating the GDPR

X is guilty of violating Y because they're worried about being sued for Y. Interesting legal principle.

> or you should have shut down already because the risk was already there

X should shut down because of the risk of being sued for Y? What?


Yeah it was weird -- I remember very clearly reading about GDPR in early 2016 and then I also remember it appearing in people's development plans in late 2017/early 2018 and seeming like it was a big surprise.



My home computer (in the center of Europe) is not blocked, but I see that as ip2country mapping issue (in my favor). That would explain the couple of "works for me" reports I've seen on Twitter. Still useless to me because I can't safe URLs at work or on mobile.


It also works for me at the office because the connection there has native IPv6

No luck at home with Virgin Media's "ehhh we'll look at IPv6 eventually"


At least, they have burned a lot of trust from once loyal EU users. And the GDPR "shutdown" for EU citizens with no given warning was a topic in every major newspaper here, not only computer/internet focused sites and papers.


Burned a lot of trust? How is this a violation of trust? If a company can’t meet their GDPR obligations under this law, EU citizens have successfully voiced through legislation that they don’t want these businesses operating in the EU. You can’t have your tea and drink it too. This is a consequence.


1) But why can't they meet their GDPR obligations? Are they doing something they've not been up front about?

2) Giving (reportedly) one day notice that they are shutting down access is definitely a trust hit. They should have known long before that.

I don't use Instapaper and I'm not in the EU, but those of these points are raised elsewhere in this thread, and both seem valid concerns in terms of "trust" regardless of whether you approve/disapprove of the GDPR.


It's a bit of a mischaracterization to label US companies that punt on GDPR with the "well they're obviously shitty companies that wantonly toss around their users's personal information, so good riddance" brush. As someone very deeply involved with a medium-sized company's move to GDPR compliance, I can confirm that there are about a million different legal opinions about what GDPR means and it's causing a LOT of anxiety at all levels of the company. Whether that's right or wrong, that's an experience been echoed all over the country by companies big and small. And that's not even getting into the seismic shift involved in making sure that a "delete me" request is properly distributed to all downstream consumers of data, assuming that we even know who all those groups in the company are. And is this service my app uses GDPR-compliant? It goes on and on. It's not at all surprising to me that some companies are just punting on it because they're terrified that they will somehow get knocked for millions of dollars over something like that.


Precisely and furthermore, it’s unreasonable to expect Pinterest to prioritize millions of dollars in labor to speculate and react to provisional legislation.

1. There was no certainty GDPR was going to pass.

2. There was no certainty as to what language would be used in the final document.

3. There was no certainty as to how/when it would be enforced.

By the time GDPR was actually passed, the lead time to enforcement was a slap in the face.

And to be honest, the compliance dates felt like a calculated attack to further the EUs moronic crusade against Facebook and Google, knowing full and well they were unrealistic deadlines.

Collateral damage to Instapaper and others is somehow a worthwhile trade off in the name of burning witches.

So I say, let there be consequences.


Deleted, was overly negative.


They might just be missing basic features and blocking access was easier than adding those features. If the product isn't working out inside Pinterest then they don't have much motivation in fixing those issues, even if they lose users.


Well you got a point.


I am glad it happened and I hope they are going to find sustainable model. I've been using alternatives for past two months as Instapaper was blocked in EU and all those alternatives are horrible.

Good luck guys.


I admit I'm rather hoping they go back to something like the pre-Pinterest "Premium" model, or perhaps better yet, just charge everyone a modest amount across the board.


+1 Instagram is (well it was) my everyday core app, something I can't really live without. I am paying like 30 USD/year for RSS reader and I would gladly pay same amount just to be sure the app is going to be alive in few years.


What RSS reader do you use?


Bazqux: https://bazqux.com/

Terrible name, great little product.


If you've tried Pocket why do you think it's horrible?


Mostly text crawling and rendering. Sometimes the articles are turncated (say half of article is missing), saving from pastebin doesn't work at all (my favorite way to save long forum posts).

Also text rendering is not really good: in Instapaper you get nicely fullscreen text, not really true for Pocket: they keep too much text formating (colors, sometimes also some layouts elements) and quite often I am getting articles that are cut the way that one line contains just one word (and sometimes just few letters out of word).

Last thing is bloat, which is just minor issue: I don't care about trending posts, best offs and recomendation.


Hey devj, maker of https://pagedash.com here. PageDash saves the entire article as HTML. Try it out and see if you like it :)


Excellent news!

Not been able to use it since GDPR came into play, assumed it was down to slow large company -itis.

Peeved by it the point I was planning out my own replacement product for Instapaper. Hopefully everything is back on track soon


Self-hosted Wallabag instance is great. I collect article there first, sync them to pocket as a backup. (Wallabag RSS->IFTTT->Pocket)

https://wallabag.org/en


Does it send articles to Kindle?

I had a look around and in an attempt to pre-empt - no, I'm not jailbreaking my kindle


There are attempts with some serverside voodoo, but it doesn't look like it's possible.


I've been using Instapaper since the day it came out on the app store (never saw the point of the web version). Pinterest has been the worst owner! There used to be periodic improvements and updates. There's not even a full black mode for iPhone X! In the old days Instapaper would have been the first out of the gate with little features like that. Let's home there's an improvement.

Luckily the service is still better than Pocket, which has unusable pagination, no ability to sort by length, and is generally just a cluttered mess.


I have an off-topic question: After seeing their brand new buildings in SF in SOMA area, I’ve been wondering about the Pinterest’s success lately. Does anyone have any resources talking about their current trends, numbers and their business model? Honestly, I lack the context, because I was so annoyed by their spam on the Google’s search result pages that I started to use queries with -site:pinterest.com. So, to me this is completely irrelevant website.


I use instapaper solely for its 'highlight' feature. Strange that other read-it-later apps don't provide it (at least in their free versions).


Lanes (https://lanes.io) has highlights - although articles are secondary to tasks, for now. Diigo does highlights too, and Feedly.

Agree that highlights are a brilliant feature - the next natural step after saving an article is saving the best bits of that article.


I can only imagine they dropped the $2.99/mo fee when Pinterest bought it b/c the numbers were inconsequential.

Now that they will need income, they must be betting on the numbers being robust enough to support a team of 5.

But I'm genuinely not sure if I'd pony up when they start charging again.


I am fine with paying a reasonable subscription fee for Instapaper. Privacy – if guaranteed – has its value too. (At the moment, Instapaper blocks EU users because it’s obvious violating the GDPR, that’s troublesome …)


I used to be a free plan user and happy with it. The paid features (search I guess) were fine, but unnessential.

If they come back with the same feature distribution I would keep being a free user.


I’ll stick with Mozilla’s Pocket for privacy, durability and integration with Firefox, emacs etc.


I stopped using instapaper a few years ago, I found their HTML parsing didn't play well with articles that had code in or used <pre> tags.

Might be much better these days but I can't try it out again because they've blocked anyone in the EU


Same here.


Expect an insta-shutdown in a few months.


Why would anybody use instapaper over pocket?


Because, at least while instapaper was still maintained, it really had a focus on empowering the serious reader and getting out of their way. While pocket seems to be more interested in adding social media elements and generally being a "platform."


Instapaper sends weekly digests of new articles direct to my Kindle.


shameless plug here, if you'd like to read pocket articles on kindle go check out my free, open-source service - https://sejka.github.io/PocketToKindle/


Pocket does so to my Kobo ;)


Years of saved articles.


I prefer the Instapaper interface.


I'm just curious b/c I use Instapaper but am surprised that it's risen through the ranks here.

Are people bumping in this b/c of interest in Pintrest, or b/c they find Instapaper an amazingly useful app?

If the latter, what else are you all using it for other than saving long articles on plane flights w/o wifi?


I imagine their GDPR failure will be a reason it's interesting.


I'd imagine it might be a financial liability in light of the Pinterest IPO that was pushed to 2019


Anybody know any good APIs or projects that help you get the article content for a given url? There is of course Mercury API, but are there any alternatives?


Something I've worked on: http://fivefilters.org/content-only/

Actually uses the original Insapaper site-specific extraction rules (they were hidden after Marco sold it I think) which can now be found here: https://github.com/fivefilters/ftr-site-config/ We get contributions from users of Wallabag (good open source alternative to Instapaper/Pocket).

It also uses the original Arc90 Readability code ported to PHP to figure out where the article content is without any knowledge of the site.

We sell the latest versions (AGPL licensed) but older versions go up in our public repository: https://bitbucket.org/fivefilters/full-text-rss


Try Lanes - https://lanes.io. It combines tasks, bookmarks and video annotations and uses the Mercury API under the hood.

Disclaimer: I made this. We've nailed down tasks and now we're focusing on making the read-later/bookmark feature top class. Articles are highlight-able and you can reference articles as tasks (because 'read this article' is a essentially a task) - we find this helps you read more, as most bookmark managers are essentially "here's a thing I like enough to save but will probably never read".

Give it a try.


Is this what you mean - a bookmarklet that gets rid of all the clutter?

https://readable.io/



Should I switch to Instapaper from Evernote?




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