It’s hard to keep up with all the interesting, important, or just plain fun things you come across on the web. You may come across something you just don’t have time to read right now or want to save because it will come in handy later. But as most of us have discovered, creating a bookmark on a browser for each article and site that we want to read later can result in a huge bookmarky mess.
Years ago, I started getting the better of this issue by signing in to Pocket, a popular and long-standing app that allows you to save a bookmarked article to a separate server and then retrieve it to read at your leisure using either a computer or a mobile device. Pocket has been around since 2007. Originally called Read It Later, it started life as a Firefox browser extension, eventually became its own app, and was acquired by Mozilla in 2017.
Now, there is a change underway — not in the app itself but in the way you’ll sign in. As of June 11th, 2023, Pocket users were notified that they needed to transition to Firefox accounts; the change becomes mandatory as of August 15th. (Originally, the switchover was due to happen back in June 2022 but was temporarily postponed.) The reason, according to Mozilla, is that “with this transition, not only will it make Pocket more secure, but it also allows you to opt in to enhanced security functionality like two-factor authentication (2FA) and account recovery keys.”
Still, if you use Pocket and already have a Firefox account, or if you don’t mind creating one, you can simply convert the account and continue with Pocket as before. But if you’re reluctant to add a Firefox account for any reason, there are alternative apps that you can use to collect bookmarks for reading material.
What follows is a description of Pocket and five other bookmarking service apps. This is obviously only a limited list: they all offer free versions and all sync across a variety of devices, including web browsers, Android devices, and iPhones.
I’ve also linked to instructions for each for importing and exporting existing bookmarks; most will work in HTML format, and several also accept CSV and other file formats.
Pocket has developed a nicely designed interface with lots of options that let you sort your articles from newest or oldest, choose favorites, display them in list or grid format, and archive the ones you want to keep or organize them via tags. Its Home screen shows you your most recent saves along with its own list of “Recommended Reads.” You can share your articles via social media or recommend them within the app for others to find. There is a set of curated reads; extensions for a wide variety of browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari; and apps for Android and iOS devices.
Paid version: the Premium version ($4.99 a month or $44.99 a year) adds a permanent library of everything you’ve saved (in case it disappears from the web) as well as full-text search and other features.
Like Pocket, Instapaper started out as a simple web add-on and has gone through several iterations (and owners); currently, it is part of an independent company called Instant Paper. The web app has a nice and simple UI; while there is no grid view, you can turn thumbnails on and off. It offers (and syncs across) web browsers (using a Chrome extension, Safari extension, Firefox extension, or bookmarklet), iOS, Android, and Kindle. A free account lets you save an unlimited number of articles, videos, and other content. You can also highlight text in the articles you’ve saved, create up to five notes a month, and edit the name, link, or summary of each article.
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.
Raindrop may not have the simplicity of Instapaper, but it has a load of features that could be helpful, especially if you’re serious about your info collections. The web version lets you view your articles in a variety of formats, including an interesting one called Moodboard. Like most of the others listed here, the free version of Raindrop offers an unlimited number of bookmark saves on an unlimited number of devices; these include 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 sites, among other features.
PaperSpan is an old-fashioned, simple app that is fine if you want a really plain bookmarking service — and it promises no ads and no tracking, which is a plus. You can create separate folders for your saved bookmarks, but that’s about it; however, there are mobile apps for iOS and Android. Unlike other services listed here, there are no nice graphics, highlighting, or choice between lists and grids. But if you just save articles in order to be able to easily read them and don’t care about all the fancy add-ons that the other options offer, this is for you.
Paid version: None
Export instructions - Import instructions (Click on “Import” in the side menu for both.)
Matter is currently only available for iOS devices (there is a waitlist for an Android app) and the web, with extensions for the Chrome, Safari, and Firefox browsers. Once attuned to following social media favorites and finding new influencers, the app has become more streamlined and focused on content. You can add your Gmail address to pull your newsletters into the app, add notes, or listen to an audio reading of an article. You can import favorite writers from Twitter and articles from Instapaper or sync articles with other apps such as Notion, Kindle, or Obsidian.
Paid version: Matter Premium costs $1.14 a week or $59.99 a year and adds HD audio in a more natural voice and the ability to highlight, annotate, and sync to notes apps, among other features.
Export instructions: In the web app, go to Settings > Export Data. In the iOS app, click on your personal icon and select Account > Export data.
Import instructions: In the iOS app, click on your personal icon and select Connect Accounts > Pocket.
Omnivore is a relatively recent open-source bookmarking app that shows promise. It’s got a straightforward UI that lets you see your articles in lists or as a gallery; as with many of the more sophisticated readers, you can highlight an article, add notes, add labels, or archive them. Interestingly, you can see your notes and highlights as a sidebar both in the article itself or in the gallery / listing. There are extensions for a variety of browsers, including Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari, and mobile apps for iOS and Android. The app is still very much in development — for example, the export function has apparently just been added to the preview version — but it’s something to keep an eye on.
Paid version: None
Update August 14, 2023, 11:15AM ET: This article was originally published on February 24th, 2022. It has been changed to announce Pocket’s conversion to a Firefox sign-in, to add Omnivore, and to update the other entries.