Back in 2012 I have discovered a small social network. Now, after 10 years and over 5700 links posted, it's going away.
What was Reading?
Reading.am (or just Reading) was all about, well, reading stuff on the web:
"Share what you're reading. Not what you like. Not what you find interesting. Just what you're reading."
Whenever I read something on the web, I used a bookmarklet (or extension, or email) to post the link to Reading.
When I liked the article, I hit “Yep”. When I hated it, I hit “Nope”. I could also comment on the page or quote the text on the page. The quoting functionality was particularly subtle: if any text in quotes was found on the page, it was highlighted by the extension.
Occasionally, I checked links posted by others. All in a simple chronological feed with no ads, no algorithmic recommendations, and no distracting images.
But there was a twist: When I clicked a link, it was automatically posted into my profile. Including the attribution who pointed me there. And vice versa: it was fun to see who was intrigued by my links.
Reading also provided a Hooks system to share the posted links into other applications, like Slack, Twitter, Pinboard, and elsewhere.
This functionality inspired users to start dedicated Twitter accounts for posting their activity from Reading. Following this trend, I made my “Jan is reading” account. Nowadays, I also post my shares from Pocket and claps from Medium there.
I enjoyed that Reading was unlike typical bookmarking sites. To me, a bookmark feels like a commitment: when I bookmark it, will I return in the future? To which folder do I put that bookmark? How will I tag it?
Reading removed the question “Should I bookmark it?” Whenever I spent some time reading an article, posting it was a “fire and (mostly) forget” operation.
Maybe you experienced that “oh yeah, I read about this” feeling, but couldn't find the article you barely remembered. Reading and my automated Twitter account help me to backtrack my readings.
How did the Reading end?
At the beginning of June, Reading's author Greg Leppert sent out an email about the Reading sunset.
I’m sunsetting https://t.co/YUmTL4bUkI at the end of this month. Thanks to everyone who participated—I really enjoyed building things with and for you. Data exports are available and I’ll be around for support and questions. —@leppert pic.twitter.com/uaVehWBflK— Reading (@reading) June 2, 2022
I don't think it came as a surprise to the remaining Reading users. There were no new features since 2016 and every so often, the site was unavailable for multiple days.
Despite all of this, Reading didn't end up like most abandoned communities, collecting dust and spam. Even today, a single day before the sunset, there are people posting links, at least in my corner of Reading.
Reading was a single person project and labor of love. I am grateful to Greg for building this small, but invigorating this community, and it was fun to be part of it.
In light of Icebergs shutting down, this is a reminder that Reading is run by a single person who pays for the servers because he likes you.— Reading (@reading) July 30, 2014
For me, Reading embodied the best of the social web, a true spirit of Web 2.0 (without irony). It was built for people, not for advertisers. The interface was utilitarian and minimalistic, with subtle features ought to be discovered by users – not shoved in their face through a guided tutorial.
Maybe you think: “I could build Reading in one weekend!” — and I'd believe you. More power to you! Greg even published the source code for Reading. Will you pick up the torch?
In light of @reading's coming sunset, a few kind users convinced me to finally open source (MIT) the code. Everything is showing its age, but then again aren't we all. Have a look: https://t.co/OY0ibqIhjs— Greg Leppert (@leppert) June 6, 2022
As for me, Reading's sunset inspired me to start a summer project to scratch my itch. Stay tuned!