Pocket Begins The Internet Dance of Death

Damn. I hate it when this happens. An app that has been a useful part of my Internet dance routine decides it’s time to join the algorithm dance party so it can recommend “things I might like.” Pocket, an app that has long been one of my partners has sashayed onto that crowded recommendation engine dance floor. Which essentially means it will eventually disappear from my dance card.

CleanShot 2023 05 18 at 10 51 16 2x

Pocket began it’s life as an app called appropriately “Read It Later.” It’s flirted with all sorts of changes along the way, adding a paid premium version in 2014. Pocket was integrated into the Firefox browser awhile back and then acquired by Mozilla in 2017, Up to now Pocket has avoided the lure of the recommendation algorithm dance party. But no longer. They began rolling out this change to Android users In January and are now introducing it to iOS users this month. 

Pocket works on all of my devices so when I see an article I want to read I use an extentsion to save it to Pocket so I can read it when I have the time and on the device that is most convenient when I find that time. I’ve been using it for quite awhile and it is at the top of my Billboard Top 10 list of apps I install on a new device.

To be fair, many apps end up chasing new dance partners. In order to keep paying the bills the money has to come from somewhere, whether it be advertising, raising prices or venture capital. At the moment there is still a free version of Pocket. So the origins and functionality of the service still exist.

Here’s my complaint. Pocket is turning into a recommendation engine first and deemphasizing the “Read Later” functionality. All you have to do is look at the new UI on a mobile device and while “Recent Save” is at the top, the page is designed to take you to “Editors’ Picks.” Those “Editors’ Picks” are curated. Call me cynical, and probably unfair, but I’m guessing that curation is done by algrothim. Call me even more cynical but when a service tells me that it is making a change to provide me with “topics you care about” I translate that into “links that serve the service first and not the user.”

Thursday 18 May 2023 10 46 44Be honest. Do you actually rely on recommendation engines? Sure, occasionally they’ll surface something of interest. But in my experience they mostly serve up more of the same the way that Amazon and streaming media services do. Like a bad DJ who doesn’t know how to keep the mix fresh and exciting and just spins the same old same old. I can’t begin to list the number of apps I once used that have danced their way into an uninstall this way.

It’s not an original dance step. It’s become a tired one. Sure most love to hear the DJ spin up “The Chicken Dance” at a wedding. But do they actually put it on their own personal playlist? By and large, while it may increase revenue (again not a bad thing) in the short term I’ve yet to find an app or a service in this drunken conga line that I don’t at some point scratch from my dance card. Bluntly, I could care less what Pocket’s “editors” think I should see, or what other users think I should see.

Obviously nothing lasts forever, especially in Internet years. But I’d love to see this dance party be one that wears out its welcome sooner rather than later.

Author: Warner Crocker

I stumble through life as a theatre director and playwright as well as a gadget geek...commenting along the way. Every day I learn something new is a good day, so I share what I find exciting, new, stupid and often worthwhile.

One thought on “Pocket Begins The Internet Dance of Death”

  1. Warner,
    Thanks for your thoughtful ponderings of the stage and of tech!
    I gave up on Pocket as soon as it started to get noisy about “you might also like”. I can see why you might drop it, too.


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