Covering beta services is a tricky business. On the one hand, it’s hard to contain the excitement of using a new service that pushes all the right buttons. On the other, it’s a bit like bragging to your friends about getting into a sneak screening of a new movie – they might be able to get in eventually, but nobody really likes hearing about someone else having fun.
QUOTE.fm (which will be typeset as Quote.fm for my sanity) is one of those services. When we covered Quote.fm earlier this year, the main draw – its new Read service – was unavailable to anyone not part of the private beta. “Read” is making its public debut today, and the Quote.fm iPad app is now available on the App Store.
I was impressed with the iPad app during my beta testing, and the Quote.fm team has spent the last month polishing the experience. Animations are smoother, and I haven’t been able to replicate a few of the crashing issues that haunted the beta. I would have liked for the weird, Swiss-style color scheme to have been tweaked slightly, but that’s a small nitpick against an otherwise satisfying app.
Quote.fm has also updated its bookmarklet to support two workflows. If a user has highlighted part of an article they can hit the bookmarklet and recommend the current article with one click – if they haven’t, a menu pops up that allows the user to “Read Now”, “Read Later”, or “Send to Kindle”. The service has also been updated to include the same functionality in browser extensions for Google Chrome, Safari, and Firefox for “all of you who don’t like to use bookmarklets” (read: people like myself).
When I covered Quote.fm in August, I said that it may be the “next read-later service that’s actually worth using.” Unlike Readability, Pocket, or Instapaper (which was involved in a bit of a scandal this week), which apply a different coat of paint to the same basic functionality, Quote.fm’s social networking/read-later mashup strives to be more than a bucket for ad-free articles.
People already share the things they find interesting. When someone isn’t turning to Twitter to whine or make a pithy one-liner, they’re sharing links to the stuff they’ve found around the Web. These links often include a line of commentary, but besides a reader is left to choose an article based on nothing more than a URL and trusting the person that shared the link. Quote.fm, on the other hand, allows users to select a passage of the text that they’re sharing, add a comment, and allow the potential reader to make a decision based on those factors.
Readers are trying to answer three questions: What they should read, why they might be interested, and how they should read it. Twitter answers the “what” and services like Instapaper solve the “how” – Quote.fm is the only service I’ve found that does both, and also addresses the “why.”