The Future Is Here
We may earn a commission from links on this page

Pinterest Bought Instapaper and That Makes Me Nervous

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Pinterest, the site beloved by wedding planners and doomsday preppers alike, has acquired the original read later service, Instapaper.

This sort of makes sense, I guess, considering that both Instapaper and Pinterest are essentially bookmarking services. Instapaper just tends to be about text, and Pinterest is all about the image.


This is Instapaper’s third owner. Incubator Betaworks acquired Instapaper from its creator Marco Arment back in 2013.

For now, the company line is that nothing will change. On its blog, the Instapaper team writes:

For you, the Instapaper end user and customer, nothing changes. The Instapaper team will be moving from betaworks in New York City to Pinterest’s headquarters in San Francisco, and we’ll continue to make Instapaper a great place to save and read articles.


As an early-adopter and a tech watcher, nothing scares me more than when a company promises that “nothing will change.” Because of course, that means changes are coming.

The Instapaper team, which includes CEO Brian Donohue and community manager Rodion Gusev are moving to San Francisco. And although Instapaper will remain a separate product, Donahue and Gusev will continue to work on Instapaper, but that’s not going to be their only job. They were hired to work at Pinterest.

We’ve seen this story before. A bigger company buys a smaller company, promises to keep the product around. The next thing you know, your favorite email app is dead. Or your favorite calendar app. Or the bookmarking service you used before either Instapaper or Pinterest existed.

Pinterest is ostensibly buying Instapaper because it wants some of its technology (its text parser is pretty great) and the people who built that tech. But it seems very unlikely that Pinterest actually wants the Instapaper service itself. Sure, Pinterest says it will keep Instapaper running. Keeping a service running and keeping a service improving are two very different things, though.


From the same Instapaper blog post:

Instapaper provides a compelling source for news-based content, and we’re excited to take those learnings to Pinterest’s discovery products. We’ll also be experimenting with using our parsing technology for certain Rich Pin types.


That parser, incidentally, used to be able to be used by other developers. It’s being sunset and will be shut down November 1. It’s unlikely that the parser had a lot of customers, but the very fact that it’s being shut down suggests that buying Instapaper isn’t about Instapaper. It’s about the underlying tech and the people.

As an Instapaper user since 2008, this is worrisome. And that’s before we look at the owner. As Wired puts it, Pinterest is already struggling to prove that its worth $11 billion. With a focus on buy buttons and commerce, the company may survive, but that still doesn’t mean Instapaper or its users will thrive.


Pinboard creator Maciej Cegłowski has had some choice words on Twitter about the acquisition.


Some of Cegłowski’s tweets are a little cruel, but the guy has a point.

In my deepest of hearts, I don’t want Instapaper to be over. I want the service to continue to exist and even thrive under its new corporate overlords. But if I’m honest, I know that there is a very real chance that in a year or 18 months, Instapaper won’t exist anymore.


And that sucks.