I recently questioned a friend about why they prefer Pocket over Instapaper. They pointed me to this article from the Wall Street Journal.

I can certainly see some of the points in the article. Pocket and Instapaper do have a very different design feel and one or the other may work for you. There is one totally erroneous conclusion though.

….there seems to be no convincing reason to pay for Instapaper apps when Pocket, backed by VC funding, offers something similar (and better) for free.

We’ll skip the “(and better)” comment mostly. It’s simply better in the author’s opinion, and in mine it is in no way better.

I’ve written before about apps needing business models, so I’m sure you can see where this is going. We have no guarantee that Pocket is going to be around, they have no business model. Right now all they have is a bank account that is steadily going down. If I ran my business that way no one would be applauding me as a great consultant, I’d be working at the local fast food chain.

We need to look no further than Twitter to see what happens to services that don’t have a solid business model. What is to prevent Pocket from totally changing their service (which they have done since they were Read it Later) in to something that pisses off users? Nothing, at some point they need to make money.

I suppose that there is nothing stopping Marco from screwing up Instapaper in the quest for more money either. In the case of Instapaper, we have a business model that has kept the company running for a few years. He has a vested interest in users continuing to pay him for Instapaper. When you have a business that makes money it’s way less likely you are going to screw with the core service everyone paid for.

So no I won’t be using Pocket. It’s not even something I’m willing to try until there is a viable business model. Only then will we start to see the product we are going to get.

It’s unfortunate that the world we currently inhabit praises companies with no business model. That’s like praising a gambler as a good business man because every so often some gambler some where wins big. Most go down in flames.

One response to “Pocket is Like a Gambler”

  1. Mike Schinkel Avatar

    Hey Curtis,

    Commenting since it appears my tweet with the link to the article triggered this post.

    You make some great points about business models, ones I strongly agree with in general. And for your use-case their business model makes Instapaper a more viable solution for you than Pocket. That’s great that you’ve found a tool that you like and that makes you more effective.

    But when you asked “why pocket and not Instapaper?” I answered with the link I found by googling rather than spend 15-20 minutes answering as I am now. The article I found addressed the reasons I liked Pocket better that Instapaper even if the article mentioned things that were irrelevant to me, the parts which you were critical of above.

    For me it boils down to the fact I like having a simple clean desktop app and Pocket has much better usability than Instapaper in most cases for a task where usability is really the only consideration for me. Pocket speaks to me, Instapaper does not.

    Now as for Pocket not having a business model and thus could go away at any minute, well since I only use Pocket for a quick way to gather items that I’ll read within the next few days it wouldn’t be a big loss for me if they went away. I’m not using it to archive links like I do with with Pinboard.in or like I’m currently evaluating doing with Evernote.

    All I use Pocket for is to capture links to read later that I previously would have emailed to myself. Pocket helps me declutter my email inbox because it works to quickly capture links from most of the software that I use to consume content. Pocket is integrated with many apps, typically lets me capture content with one click and has very little lag time between clicking and being able to do something else (this last part is where Evernote fails.)

    So Pocket is (almost) perfect for what I use it for. (I say “almost” because they could polish the UI a bit.)

    As for business model, since Pcoket got VC and are getting lots of users I expect they will find a viable business model. But if they do not, or if they pivot away from my use-case I won’t have lost anything I didn’t have before using Pocket. As they say, no harm, no foul.