I’m sure you’re wondering: how long will Chrome and Firefox users have to wait to get such a feature?
The answer is about twenty seconds. The good folks over at OMG! Ubuntu! managed to find a Reader-like plugin, called Readability, that works for both Chrome and Firefox. They may be a Ubuntu blog, but don’t worry: this guide brings the feature to Windows and Mac fans of Chrome and Firefox as well.
Amazingly enough, these plugins are not a Reader clone. As it turns out, actually, the Safari Reader feature is actually made possible with code lifted directly from the the Readability project. More on that later; for now let’s get Readability set up on your computer.
Getting started is dead-simple. Just head over the the download site – here for Chrome, and – and you’re good to go. Once the plugin is installed you can quickly convert any webpage into a readable article with the click of a button – on the right side of the statusbar at the bottom of the window for Firefox users and to the right of the address bar for Chrome users.
If you’re reading Wikipedia, for example, you can turn this:
As you can see everything is removed but the article itself. Combine this with your browser’s full-screen function and you can very quickly make your laptop or netbook feel like a full-blown ebook reader.
With some sites you’ll retain your pictures within the articles – this was true for me with Slate and MakeUseOf, for example. With other sites pictures will disappear completely – this was the case for me with The Economist and The New York Times.
There are very few options that need to be configured to use Readability, but there are a few. You can customize the look of the re-worked webpages within certain constraints. There are five main themes you can pick from, and you can also configure the size of the font and the width of the margins. To configure these options simply right-click the Readability icon to bring up the preferences.
Readability Is Not A Reader Clone
The article recognition technology these plugins use is powered by the webapp Readability. Hilariously enough, Safari’s “Reader” function is also based on Readability, which is an open source project under the Apache 2 license. That’s right: Apple lifted the code from the Readability project.
Readability isn’t just similar to Safari’s reader; it’s pretty much identical. And as it turns out the Readability team was never notified Apple was making use of it’s code. Totally legal under the terms of the Apache license, but kind of odd I think.
There is a similar tool to this we’ve featured previously at MakeUseOf: Instapaper. David wrote all about it in a piece called “Manage Your Bookmarks & Reading List with Instapaper”
Readability certainly makes the web more readable, but some content providers are worried it will cost them advertising revenue. Wired even wrote a piece accusing Apple of integrating the service into its browser specifically to scare online publications into creating iOS apps.
For me Readability isn’t cool for its ability to block ads, however; it’s cool for its ability to clean up a given page’s format and let me focus on the thing that matters: content. I’ll still look at the ads when I open the page, and will even click through if I find them relevant.
What do you think? Is Readability a good or a bad thing for sites like MakeUseOf? Are you less likely to look at ads if you use it? Or are you already a die-hard Adblock user who forgot the web ever had advertising to being with?
Additionally, do you think this is a useful tool, or mostly useless? Sharing in the comments below is awesome, so you should do that.