Readability disabled its old bookmarklet this afternoon, redirecting the script reference to its new browser applet instead. Rationally, I can see why they would have to do it—if they’re wanting to track pages viewed for the purpose of doling out content payments, they have to channel them through a source that can actually track those views.

But I’m finding that the new applet is considerably less satisfactory than the old bookmarklet for a number of reasons.

The old bookmarklet seemed to do its actual processing on my own computer. This provided a faster response time, and it also meant that the only computer that needed to be able to see what I was reading was my own. Which meant that if my browser could display the page, the script could render it. This includes pages stored on my local hard drive, as well as pages behind password-protection such as Baen Webscription e-books.

The new applet works with neither of those, which means I can’t use it for a number of things I used the old one for. It’s also a good bit slower, since I’m waiting for the page content to come back from Readability’s servers instead of seeing it rendered on my own box.

The old bookmarklet didn’t change the URL of the redirected story, which meant that when I was reading a story that way, I could copy and paste its URL into a TeleRead blog post without much extra effort. Of course, now I can just right-click on the icon for viewing the original article at left and copy it from there, but it’s an extra step.

And the old Readability worked just fine with Internet Explorer 7, which is all I have access to at work. The new one complains it’s not compatible.

It’s really nice that Readability is moving toward providing a replacement revenue source for banner ads, but I really wish it didn’t come at the expense of a number of the features that made the old version most useful to me. One of the most useful tools on the web just became considerably less useful; I wish there was some way to use the old bookmarklet still.


  1. Thanks Chris,
    I knew I wouldn’t be the only one lamenting the passing of this excellent bookmarklet. I’m not quite sure, but I had always assumed it was open source, in the sense that the javascript processing the page could be downloaded and examined as is. Javascript is not compiled to object, so the source code would be there and could therefore be used, re-used, and modified at will by the user. I’m really sorry I didn’t download and save it now.

    It seems to follow, however, that there is nothing stopping anyone from writing this code and making a new free user-controlled applet. The main difficulty would lie in programmatically identifying the body of the text to be displayed. Once that’s done, simply presenting it should be easy.

    And another thing I dislike about the new one is that it diminishes user control of the final display. I want to be able to resize my text by hitting ctrl-+, until it is really big. In the old version the text would always just wrap round so I could make it as big as the browser would allow me. On the new one, not only does the text not wrap so I am limited in how big I can make it, but there is a permanent left sidebar which I cannot remove, taking up my precious screen space, AND there is in any case no horizontal scroll bar. All this usurps the user controls already designed into the browser, controls with which we are familiar and which have served us well. Why undermine them? Users should be free? Why are our wings being clipped.

    But this speaks to the unalterable fact that content, once sent over the wires to our machine, is essentially ours. It has passed through our door into our house. No one can then stop us doing as we please. I can write a javascript bookmarklet to process it any way I please. Who is going to stop me.

    Let us get on with the job of doing this thing properly for ourselves. Take the text back into the hands of the people. Enough corporate greed from advertisers. Readability, which I once thought of as being on our side, has down declared its hand. It has been subverted. It has been pressured into getting into bed with corporate power. The money doesn’t go to writers, it goes to corporate publishers in place of the ad revenue they are missing. The politics behind that is obvious. And as always, in order for corporate power to control us it must do violence to our freedom. That is why we are finding our wings clipped in this way.

    It’s time to put together a project to design a truly open source readability, made by users for users. Enough of this fancy neoliberal, advertisers insidious boxing in. Time to break out and do it for ourselves. Can anybody help with this? Let’s do it.

  2. Sorry, I posted before reading the comments above. However, there will still be a need for a project to maintain the old readability code as advertisers faff about with the HTML in their pages in an attempt to sabotage the old readability logic. It will likely be an ongoing game of cat and mouse. They aren’t going to lie down just because somebody saved and now publishes the code. It’s not over yet. Sorry to be so apocalyptic, but that’s how I see it.

  3. I hate the new readability. I hope somebody creates a replacement that looks and works exactly as the old one did. I really miss it. Apart from being less easy to read and use it’s much slower. I refuse to use new readability. For now I’ll be using Grrrr’s saved code.

  4. Thanks for the link to Readable!! I’ve been so frustrated with the new Readability. What’s the point if I can’t even print or save as a PDF??? They screw up the most basic functions of such a simple program and then ask me to pay for new extra “services???”

    Its the same old story: come up with a great service, attract a loyal following and then ruin it all under the guise of “innovation.” Just once, can’t they just leave it alone??

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