Readability is now in the iOS App Store, ready to change how you read the web. We were able to get a preview copy and have been playing with app for a few days. It's a universal app that lets you browse articles without the clutter of ads, superfluous links and redundant images. For those who use Readability in a third-party client like Tweetbot, you'll immediately feel at home when you first open the app.
The idea behind Readability is similar to Instapaper and Read It Later, you browse the web on your desktop or mobile browser and send articles to Readability to read. When you launch the app, you'll need to enter your Readability login credentials or sign up for a new account. You'll need this account so you can access your reading list, which is shared across devices.
Using Readability to read is a pleasant experience for those who like to get to the meat of an article - the words. The app does an excellent job of taking the core parts of a post and presenting it in a pleasing way. If you don't like the way Readbility displays the text, you can change it by adjusting the font size and column width. There's even a toggle to change the color theme for night and day reading.
It's easy to add items to Readability and then read them on your iOS device. You can add articles using a desktop browser, from desktop apps like Reeder, and from mobile apps like Tweetlogix and Pulse. If you're using mobile Safari you can easily copy the URL of a web page and Readability will ask you to add it to your reading list when you open the app.
Overall, I enjoyed using Readability. I love the clean interface and how it formats an article so you can jump right in and start reading. The ability to sync articles between devices is also a major benefit. I spend a lot of time on my computer during the day and read on the iPad at night. Readability works perfectly for my reading habits.
Though I like Readability, the biggest question is whether I will keep using it. There are so many options for consuming media on the iPad and other well-established systems like Read It Later, why would you switch to Readability?
We were able to talk to Rich Ziade, founding partner of the New York-based design and technology firm Arc90 and one the many talented people behind Readability. We asked him that exact question. Read on to find out what he has to say about the new iOS app and the company's plan for the future.
Question: Most people think of readability and remember last year when your app was rejected by Apple and you wrote Apple an open letter. What happened between then and now to bring you back?
Answer: In a word - a lot! We'd always wanted to get onto the iPhone and iPad with native apps. It's something we'd been working towards for a while. What complicated things was that we were evolving as a service rapidly over that time. It was pretty tricky to get the apps done and lined up with where the service was going. In any case, we're finally here and we're really excited to finally release them.
Question: Why would people chose to use Readability over a competitor like Instapaper or Read It Now, which are similar services?
Answer: We're pretty convinced that the notion of providing comfort and flexibility has barely been touched today. While we're incredibly proud of the app, we're most proud of the development community and apps built atop the platform (they're listed here). The idea of building a community around a platform is what drives us.
From a reader perspective, this allows us to embed your reading list in a lot of different places, devices and platforms. As far as the app itself, our goal was to keep it dead simple and elegant. We're pretty convinced the great majority of people don't know about this way to read the web. We want to make it as simple as possible for them.
Question: Can you comment on how users access your service? Is it mostly web-based, mobile, or through a third-party app?
Answer: Today most people access the service in their web browser. We are seeing more and more mobile and tablet use though. This probably mirrors general trends. You have a web-based version of Readability designed for mobile devices.
Question: Do you think fewer people will use it now that you have a dedicated iOS app?
Answer: If they own an iPhone or iPad - absolutely. We do want them to have the best possible experience and we expect them to download the iOS app.
Question: You are now doing optional subscriptions, a portion of which is being donated to the writers and publishers. With a free app, a free API and optional subscriptions, how are you generating revenue? If you're not focused on revenue now, is there a revenue plan for the future?
Answer: We're seeing a healthy number of readers opt in to the subscription model so we are generating revenue that way. Down the road, we think there are a handful of ways to generate revenue. We're constantly engaging readers, developers and publishers to explore avenues. For now though, our focus is to just bring a great reading platform to as many people as possible.
Question: What's next for Readability? Where do you see the company over the next three to five years?
Answer: That's a great question. It's tough to answer because the landscape we're in is changing and shifting so dramatically. There are so many directions to go because these new ways of consuming content are just now emerging. Our goal is to pay attention to what people are doing and to enable others to leverage the platform.