I received my invitation to join the private beta of spool a while back. I didn’t get around to activating it until earlier this week while I was configuring my new phone. I didn’t really have high hopes for spool, but was curious enough about it to sign up for the closed beta. But after installing it and testing it, I completely changed my mind.
Spool is a free service with offering a similar function to instapaper and read it later: They offer an Android application, an iPhone application and an iPad application as well as web browser plug-ins. While browsing the web you can with the single click of a button store an article, picture or video to read at a later date. Further the content you save is formatted for a better viewing or reading experience. For articles the important stuff, the article text and images are extracted and formated in a very readable and clean way, so you avoid all of the buzz and distractions normally surrounding articles on the web giving you a comfortable and stress free reading experience. Reading an article in spool as opposed to reading the original online article can be compared to reading a book as opposed to reading a glossy magazine. No doubt in my mind which provides the best reading experience. The great thing about spool is that it also formats your videos and converts them to HTML 5 which means you don’t have to have flash (And anybody who does something like that is a friend of mine. Not including flash is probably the only positive thing I have to say about Apple).
As soon as you save content on your computer or any of your devices, the content is converted, stored, and pushed to all of you devices for later offline reading or viewing.
What’s really great about this is the Android application (I naturally have not tried the iPhone or iPad applications). It’s smooth and works great, but furthermore it looks really, really good. Personally I would say it’s something as rare as a beautiful Android application. And so few of theme are. Most Android applications are ugly, and often not very user friendly, but once every blue moon an application comes a long that not only is very user friendly, but looks really, really good. The google+ application is one of them, and now the spool application as well. Their web page on the other hand isn’t that great. But it’s simple, functional and tidy, and that’s what really counts.
Oh. And I just discovered a spool feature that as far as I can tell hasn’t been announced: On facebook, twitter and google+ in chrome obviously the spool plug-in adds a small spool icon next to links posted in the social streams that when clicked adds the link to your spool. Nice touch. Now all that is missing is an API allowing people to add spool-links to their own sites in a similar manner.
I have at several points considered staring using both instapaper and read it later, but for some reason they never really appealed to me, and I quit using them rather quickly. Spool, on the other hand, really appeals to me. I have a feeling that Spool is going to change how I use my phone for reading articles.
Their engine is still young, and it does fail on some articles, but that is to be expected, specially when instapaper and read it later has similar problems, and they are mature products while spool is still in closed beta. Fortunately the friendly people at spool are happy to be informed of pages that fail and promise to try to add support for them. I’m really looking forward to seeing what spool can do as it matures.
Like I said, spool is still in private beta, but you can request an invite at getspool.com. I recommend you do, because I’m fairly sure that spool will be the leading provider of these types of services when their service goes public.
Update: Spool goes bye bye
As so many other great startups it seems that the creators of spool simply were out to cash in at an earliest possible point without considering their users at all. The service was purchased and went away almost as quickly as it was created. It’s a shame really, and I hope the creators of spool sleep badly at night.