Make Sure Your Browser’s Read-It-Later Tool Isn’t Oversharing

Make Sure Your Browser’s Read-It-Later Tool Isn’t Oversharing

When you come across an interesting article online that you don’t have time to read right away, you may be in the habit of opening it in a new tab to read later — only for it to become lost in the chaotic mess of your browser bar. Instead, you should be using your browser’s dedicated “read it later” feature. It’s a setup I recommend to everyone — fewer resources will be eaten up by said tabs, your browser will look prettier, and you might actually go back and read those articles someday.

Many browsers already have this functionality built in — from Edge Chromium’s Collections, to Chrome’s Read Later tool, to Firefox’s Pocket, to Safari’s Reading List, etc. There are plenty of browser extensions that can help out, too.

But a word of caution: while these third-party extensions and services can offer even more fun features for organising, archiving, and sharing content, make sure said extension is keeping your read-it-later list private by default.

Does everyone need to see your saved links?

While recently testing a new extension, Q, in the hopes that it would present a simple, no-frills way for me to save and read articles in the future, I was incredibly put off by the fact that my account — which I was required to create in order to use the extension and sync my saved articles across different browsers and platforms — defaults to a public listing of what I’ve marked to read later. In other words, anyone with my account name can see what I’ve saved.

Even if you switch your account to private, anything you save to Q is viewable by anyone else using the service. It’s all right there in the “new” ticker feed, with the article headline appended to your account.

Screenshot: David Murphy
Screenshot: David Murphy

I can’t think of many sites or services that operate like this, save for the obvious ones designed for community-driven sharing of interesting content (Reddit, Digg, etc.). In other words, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a “social bookmarking” service shares links you’re saving publicly, as opposed to a true “read-it-later” service.

Look for the best of both worlds: private and public sharing

For my browser, I much prefer the approach of a read-it-later service like Pocket, which defaults to keeping all of the content you’re saving private. However, it also gives you the option to share anything you want to your public profile — but you can choose to completely ignore that functionality.

Screenshot: David Murphy
Screenshot: David Murphy

Whatever read-it-later tool you use, you don’t really need a public-facing option. It’s helpful if you want to let others check out the interesting articles you’ve found, but there are also a million other ways to share your best of the best with your friends, including the good ol’ “copy-and-paste the hyperlink” technique. Make a shared spreadsheet, start a group chat or a private subreddit — whatever.

Whether you want to create private list of interesting articles or a public one, I definitely recommend using some kind of read-it-later extension, feature, or service instead of leaving everything open as a tab or saving it as a bookmark. The more you do to cut down on your content clutter, the better. Just make sure to check the settings of whatever service you’re using before you start sending it all your to-be-read content.

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