Sun, Jul 31, 2022

Doesn't That Already Exist? Yes, But..

Late last year, I decided to try Matter. Matter is a fairly new reading app that lets you save a URL of interest to read later. I’ve been using ‘read it later’ services for longer than I can remember. IIRC, it was my good friend Aareet that introduced me to Instapaper back in 2009 after we had brainstormed our own idea for an ‘interesting links manager’.

I think I used Instapaper up until it was acquired by Pinterest, following which I switched to Pocket. I used Pocket for many many years and probably saved and read thousands of articles through it. ‘Read it later’ is one microcategory of software where all a user needs is a solution that “just works”. Bells and whistles are generally a distraction in these products and often get in the way.

Since its launch, Matter has iterated fast. With Matter II, it achieved a level of usability and simplicity that I felt comfortable enough to move to it from Pocket entirely. There’s something wholesome about the clean lines, beautiful typography and little thoughtful touches like haptic feedback on taps and lack of an unread badge.

I also like the fact that it functions as an RSS reader. People have declared the death and comeback of RSS over the last decade more times than I can remember — just do a Google search. But it continues to live on. I now read blogs that I love like Daring Fireball and AVC most days via RSS subscriptions in Matter. I know I’m probably in the minority here, but I’ll bet there are enough people like me.

Many people will argue that the simplicity of email killed RSS. But I think both can coexist. I get some writings in my email inbox and some through RSS now in my Matter inbox. I recommended Matter to my friend Aareet last year and he recently texted me that he’s moved all his email newsletter subscriptions there.

Certain categories of software become ripe for innovation every few years. This category, broadly defined as social bookmarking, is a good example. Every few years, an entrepreneur decides “none of the existing solutions work for me, so I’m just going to build one myself”. Every decade, one of these products becomes iconic. While I was too young to know of any web 1.0 services in the space (were there any? 🤔), I remember very well Joshua Schachter’s (or simply, Delicious) which in many ways defined social bookmarking in the web 2.0 era. Then there was Pinterest that rose to prominence in the early-to-mid 2010s, became a household name and the most valuable company in the space to date.

To an entrepreneur, it’s a reminder to be careful of “doesn’t that already exist? have you heard of XYZ?” when analyzing or sharing an idea for a product. Yes, sometimes a new solution is very well redundant, but sometimes there is still untapped opportunity.