This post was published back in 2010. It may not function as originally intended or may be missing images.
As Marco has opened up on the matter, I think it would only be fair to do the same.
If you've ever spoken with me about Instapaper, you know that I do not consider Instapaper a competitor. While we certainly attempt to solve the same goal, we take completely two different approaches in doing so. In the last year alone, I think we have done a miraculous job at innovating away from each other in what seemed like a very small space. Depending on your workflow, each offers features that may suit you better.
I have no fear in saying that because I fully believe in the product I've built. Moreover, Instapaper's success vs RIL's does not matter and let me explain why.
Twitterrific, a Twitter client, recently responded to an RIL user requesting to add RIL support. They responded to say that 95% of their users don't even use Instapaper. The thing is that 100% of those users probably should be. RIL and IP are services that when you first learn about, just do not seem to be worthwhile. But they solve a problem that EVERYONE has. Once you close the 10484503 browser tabs you have open, clear out the random links in your inbox that you've emailed yourself and start finding that they've all been culled into one nice little list that follows you everywhere, it starts to make a lot more sense.
It's this massive group of people (I believe they are called the mainstream) that defines why Instapaper does not matter to Read It Later and Read It Later does not matter to Instapaper.
Let me illustrate this with a trusty pie chart:
The fact of the matter is, RIL and IP are not deadlocked into a fully utilized market (for example like Firefox vs Chrome vs IE). The amount of people that have never heard of either of us is staggering and offers plenty of space for each of us to play in without getting in each others way. And as we both grow, every time someone hears about one of us, they are likely to hear about the other. So until the market is maxed out, the growth of one benefits the other.
The simple fact is, even if RIL claimed 10% of what potential there is out there, I could afford to buy NASA and have them build robots that did my job for me. I'd be okay with that, even if Marco had 15% and was able to afford cooler robots.
From the way I've seen people talk about Read It Later and Instapaper, it seems that everyone assumes there is some major bad blood between us and that you have to pick one side and hate the other. This just isn't the case. Marco and I are just two solo developers trying to make something we think is awesome. At the end of the day, it does not matter which one you pick, all that matters is you supported an indy developer and made it possible for them to make a career out of building things they love. I've got nothing but respect for Marco and I'm confident that we'll continue to 'compete' with the same mutual respect till the end. (aka the robots we built turn on us)