Readability Directs Shared Articles to Own Servers, Cuts Out Original Publishers

A.T. Faust:

Regardless of your computer or mobile platform, when an article link is emailed or tweeted from inside Instapaper or Read It Later, those services will share the original article link (or a shortened version thereof). That way, the article’s official host is properly rewarded for its content. The standard economic model of internet publishing requires this kind of basic cooperation, and most blogs, aggregators, and apps are pretty good about citing sources and redirecting traffic.

Readability is not.

For some reason, when an article gets shared via this particular service, it ends up on Readability’s own servers. If viewing the article on their mobile devices, readers are presented with a formatted facsimile of the original content, and — though a small link of citation is provided — readers are not compelled to seek out or visit the original site. This approach neither drives traffic to the appropriate place nor properly cites the author’s work, and it violates the inherent goodwill required of such service providers.

I’ll give you the reason: Readability is run by scumbags. They collect money on behalf of publishers with whom they have no relationship, and now they steal page views too. Everyone knows shared links should point to the original resource.

Update: Readabilty has now changed the sharing feature to do the right thing, in response to Faust’s criticism. No word on when they’ll stop collecting (and keeping) money on behalf of unaffiliated publishers.

Update, 1 April 2012: My use of the word scumbags has drawn condemnation from Jeffrey Zeldman and Anil Dash — both of whom (a) sit on Readability’s advisory board, and (b) I consider my friends. I take back nothing, and judge Readability only by their actions, but allow me to take another crack at the above:

I’ll give you the reason: Readability has long exhibited a profound sense of entitlement to work published by others. They collect — and if unclaimed, keep — money on behalf of publishers with whom they have no relationship, and so I find it in-character for them to now steal page views too. Everyone knows shared links should point to the original resource.

Friday, 30 March 2012

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