The Agenda

Marco Arment Is An Impressive Fellow

Marco Arment, the founder of Instapaper and a veteran of Tumblr, has written a post that offers insight into the entrepreneurial mind. Instapaper is a wonderful tool that allows you to easily bookmark articles to “Read Later.” Yes, you certainly can just bookmark a webpage, but Instapaper has an impressively clean and attractive interface that has become a filing cabinet for many muddled minds, including my own. Apple has just announced that an Instapaper-like feature will be added to Safari in its next rollout of iOS. 

Given that many Instapaper loyalists are iOS users, you’d think that Arment would be nervous. But he’s not:

 

Today, fewer than 1% of iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch owners are Instapaper customers, despite Instapaper spending a lot of time (including today) at the #1-paid-app spot in the App Store’s News category for both iPhone and iPad. The potential market is massive, but most people don’t know that they need it yet.

When iOS 5 and Lion ship, Apple will show a much larger percentage of iOS-device owners that saving web pages to read later is a useful workflow and can dramatically improve the way they read.

If Reading List gets widely adopted and millions of people start saving pages for later reading, a portion of those people will be interested in upgrading to a dedicated, deluxe app and service to serve their needs better. And they’ll quickly find Instapaper in the App Store.

So I’m tentatively optimistic. Our world changes quickly, especially on the cutting edge, and I really don’t know what’s going to happen. (Nobody does.) But the more potential scenarios I consider, the more likely it seems that Safari’s Reading List is either going to have no noticeable effect on Instapaper, or it will improve sales dramatically. Time will tell.

Arment could be putting up a brave face for his readers. I tend to think that (a) he’s sincere) and that (b) he’s right. 

Compare Arment’s confident approach (a bigger pie ain’t a bad thing) to the IP-defensiveness of other firms and industries. 

Reihan Salam is president of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

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