Upnext is a subsequent reading app. No, it’s a bookmarking application. No, it’s a content curation and social media thing. Even Jeroen Seghers, one of the service’s co-founders, struggles to explain it. “Longer term,” he says, “I like to think about what we’re building as a knowledge navigator. But even he admits that doesn’t mean much to anyone right now. Eventually, Upnext settled on “A reader with superpowers,” which is pretty close.
Whatever you call it, here’s what Upnext is: it’s a place to save and interact with content from all over the internet. It handles articles and blog posts like Pocket or Instapaper but also serves as a dumping ground for all those YouTube videos you want to watch later, podcast episodes you’ll end up listening to, tweet threads you don’t the time to browse yet, all these PDFs clutter your desktop, and more.
My favorite thing about the app is that instead of just storing it all in a reverse chronological list, it acts as a kind of Google TV interface for web content, a tool that takes all your links and tries to give you back the right thing at the right time. Upnext’s home screen shows you a few categories, a set of curated daily picks of things you’ve saved, and then some of the things you’ve added most recently. There’s also a review page that asks you to work your way through your list to keep it clean – swipe right to keep it, swipe left to archive.
The app has been in beta for over a year, and I’ve been testing it intermittently for most of that time. Now it’s launching publicly on iPhone, iPad and the web — Android will arrive eventually, Seghers says, but not anytime soon. The app costs $10 per month or $69 per year, which is very high for this type of app (Pocket and Instapaper both have very good free tiers), but Seghers thinks Upnext can create something that worth the price for internet content superconsumers. He also didn’t rule out possibly offering a cheaper or free version, but said starting expensive “will give us a clear signal of what the most demanding users want.”
I’ve mainly used it as a direct replacement for Pocket (or Matter, another new read-later app I like) as a simple reading tool. It does a good job of ingesting most text articles, along with images and other media as well, and it’s fairly easy to highlight text and take notes. If you take notes on a video or podcast, it timestamps them automatically, so they’re easy to find later. (Upnext doesn’t yet have an easy way to sync all your notes with your favorite note-taking app unless you also pay for Readwise, but I’m told that’s coming soon.) The app doesn’t have as many more customization options than a few other apps – I’d like a way to make the margins a bit wider on the iPad, in particular, with Seghers says is coming – but it’s still a pleasant enough reading experience.
Ultimately, however, Upnext’s plan is to do a lot more with your content than give it a nicer font. When you save something in the app through the Upnext browser extension or the iOS share sheet, Upnext tries to figure out what it is and automatically categorizes it for you. It works, doesn’t it? Upnext is very good at understanding the difference between a long read and a short article and always puts YouTube links in the right place. But if you save an article with an embedded video at the top, it will think you wanted the article. If you find a podcast episode on its webpage instead of in a podcast player, it will save it as a short play and not a long play.
You also can’t manually categorize your content, which is annoying. (I still have a lot of podcasts in my Short Reads folder.) Instead, Upnext asks you to create content playlists. Personally, I love this feature: I now keep a list of podcast episodes, articles, and videos on topics I’m trying to learn more about and can dive into them whenever I have them. time. (In that sense, Upnext is almost like a supercharged bookmarking service.) You can also share playlists with others, including your own notes on various content, and Seghers says Upnext has a long-term dream of bring many social features to the app.
Higher on the priority list: Better understand the content people are putting on Upnext. The app already saves your progress on all sorts of content, so you can pick up whatever you left behind. But Seghers says the team is spending a lot of time improving the automated categorization system, which would also help Upnext recommend content to users. “You can tell us, for example, ‘I want to read, I want to listen or I want to watch,'” he says. “Then if you can also tell us, ‘This is where I really want to go,’ or ‘This is what I’m in the mood for,’ because our morning vs. evening and weekday vs.. weekend- end, it’s very different.He’s also excited to turn Upnext into a powerful search engine for everything you log, but acknowledges that it’s also hard work.
The dream for an app like this, really, is that you spend your days throwing away things that interest you, and the app intelligently returns them to you at the right time. It’s not a chore or an inbox, but rather your organized version of the Internet. Upnext isn’t that, but it’s pretty close to what Seghers says he’s trying to build. “You can just throw any link,” he says, “and it’s a lifelong learning thing.”
Apps like Upnext – and Pocket, Instapaper, Matter and others – have always been aimed at a specific type of heavy content consumer. I’m definitely that kind of consumer and have really enjoyed using Upnext so far. It’s not a perfect system, and probably still isn’t worth $10 a month for most people, but I’ve spent years looking for a good “I’ll get to that later” app, and Upnext is surprisingly close to doing it correctly.