Editor's Letter Number Two


Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

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Dear Member of The Browser,

First, my thanks to the many correspondents who wrote in response to my last letter, to share their likes and dislikes about The Browser, and to offer suggestions for future development.

I began by replying to each letter, but soon the volume overwhelmed me, for which I apologise. I was moved to discover how much affection The Browser commands , and sorry to learn about the technical problems which have been an irritation to many.

This will be quite a long email, so let me state first the headline points, for members who don't want all the detail:

1) We have redesigned The Browser website so that it works equally well on desktops, laptops, tablets and phones. This new design will make its debut on March 28th. There will be no change in our content: The Browser will continue to offer daily links to the best recent articles, a quotation of the day and a video of the day, exactly as the present site does.

2) We will be shutting down our iOS and Android apps on March 28th. We have already disabled the downloading of these apps. I am sorry for the disruption that this will cause to members who use the apps regularly. But we can't maintain and support the apps as we should, and the volume of technical complaints has been growing. Our new site will offer a browsing experience on mobile devices at least as good as that offered previously by the apps.

3) The new design will allow members to save articles of interest with one click to any of the three big read-later services — Readability, Instapaper, and Pocket. These dedicated services have many advantages over The Browser Reading List, which will be discontinued along with the apps.

4) With the launch of the new design, we are moving to a new business model. Members will continue to have unlimited free use of the site. Non-members will be able to click on up to ten links each month for free. Beyond that, they will be asked to pay a membership fee of $12/year. (This is more of a nudge than a paywall. A visitor who wants to see what we recommend, but doesn't want to support us, can copy and paste our headlines into Google.)

5) If you would prefer to cancel your old membership and claim a refund of the unexpired portion of your subscription, that's perfectly fair. Please email me, robert@thebrowser.com (robert@robertcottrell.com) , with "refund" in the subject line, and say whether you'd prefer cash by PayPal, or an Amazon gift voucher. (Those are the only two ways we can think of that don't incur disproportionate charges. If you have a better way, please do say.)

6) You don't have to decide now. Please give the new site a chance, see how it works on your tablet or phone — and if you aren't satisfied, then I'll refund you at the drop of an email.

*                       *                       *                       *

Those are the main points. But please do stay with me if you'd like some more detail.

A lot of what we are doing here is a rationalising of The Browser after the parting of ways with Five Books at New Year. Five Books now has a temporary site at http://fivebooks.com, to which new interviews are again being added after a six-month hiatus. I've seen some of the artwork for the site as it will be in the future, and it will be gorgeous.

The Browser, more than ever, has the virtues of simplicity: five or six links a day, a quotation and a video. The new web site will be plain and elegant. It uses a responsive design, meaning that the layout adjusts automatically to any screen size — from a big desktop monitor down to a mobile phone.

You will be able to put an icon for the new site on to the home screen of your tablet and phone, so that the site loads as easily as a native app would.

The decision to close down the apps was a painful one. They were expensive to build, and they have given some readers great pleasure. But by the same token, they were expensive to maintain, and I was receiving a high and rising volume of complaints from readers frustrated by failures in the login procedure and the refreshing of content. On balance, I fear, they were giving as much pain as pleasure.

I apologise particularly to readers who made frequent use of the Reading List function, which was a central feature of the apps. But if you try out Readability, or Instapaper, or Pocket, you will find that they do the same job much better.

Readability, Instapaper and Pocket are all free. All allow you to save pieces from anywhere on the Internet to read later, on a computer, a mobile device, or a Kindle.  For new users, probably the friendliest of the three services is Readability — http://readability.com (http://readability.com) . See how you like it. Possibly you may decide that you prefer Instapaper (http://instapaper.com (http://instapaper.com) ) or Pocket (http://getpocket.com (http://getpocket.com) ).

Even if you are upset by the loss of the apps, I hope that you will try our new site — and I hope you will find it in every way an improvement over the old one.

There is a new business model, but one that will restrict only non-members. Anybody will be able to visit The Browser and see what we are recommending. Non-members will be able to click on up to ten links a month for free; but after that, they will be asked to pay a membership fee of $12/year. Members will log in to the site with an email address only; we are doing away with passwords, as bothersome and unnecessary. (We will not be holding any account information on the site. Nothing is at risk.)

That's probably enough for the moment. Please do let me know how all this strikes you, and I will do my best to add and clarify where I can.

Thank you for supporting The Browser.

With best wishes

Robert Cottrell

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