Reflecting on 10 years of time well spent with Pocket
Ten years ago, a small, yet mighty team launched Pocket because we felt that people deserved a better way to consume content on the internet. We wanted it to be easy — “as simple an action as putting it in your pocket” — and empowering, giving people the means to engage with the web on their own terms. We championed the save as a fundamental internet action — akin to browse, search and share — but more than any other, allowing you to create your own corner of the internet.
Right away, Pocket’s save became powerful — a means to grab what you wanted from the waves of posts and tweets, long reads and memes and come back to it when it made the most sense for you. And it continues to lay the groundwork for the future ahead of us.
A couple of interesting things happened as we started to lean into the save.
First, we remembered the power of stories. People understand the world through stories. The stories that people consume give them power, knowledge, and ideas. Stories allow people to access who they are and who they aspire to be.
But we get distracted from those stories when too much of the focus from media and platforms tend to be on breaking news — who is first and loudest. In addition, platforms have created incentives all about the click — quality be damned. We have committed Pocket to being a place where quality stories, and those who crave them, can breathe and thrive.
Second, we’ve embraced curation. The modern web is vast, messy and noisy. There is some inherent beauty and innovation in this. As the Mozilla Manifesto states, the open, global internet is the most powerful communication and collaboration resource we have ever seen. It embodies some of our deepest hopes for human progress. It enables new opportunities for learning, building a sense of shared humanity, and solving the pressing problems facing people everywhere.
But as the web has evolved, it has created a challenging and often overwhelming environment for online content consumers. People rightly feel like they’ve lost agency with their online time. Curation is our way to help readers fight back. We built Pocket’s approach to recommendations with the same intention as the save — content discovery grounded in surfacing stories worthy of your time and attention and taking an approach that brings together algorithms and a human touch so that our commitment to quality is always clear and felt. We often hear from users that “we really get them” even when they are viewing recommendations on non-personalized surfaces — what I believe they are responding to is the quality of what we curate and recommend to our users.
Since we launched Pocket, people have saved more than 6.5 billion pieces of content. Every month, through Firefox New Tab and our Pocket Hits newsletter, more than 40 million people see our Pocket recommendations. We are strong believers and participants in the broader content ecosystem — and we want to direct users to quality content wherever it happens to live, championing creators and publishers, big and small. Pocket can always be trusted to bring you the good stuff.
In 2020, our recommendations evolved further, with the introduction of Pocket Collections. In the uncertain and disorienting early days of the pandemic, and then after George Floyd was murdered, we saw a need for high-quality content to contextualize and help people navigate events. We also saw an opportunity to elevate voices and use our platform to dig into complicated, systematic issues with room for nuance. Just reading the breaking news or knowing dates and names, the things that pop up in simple Google searches, wasn’t adequate.
We began digging in deeper and inviting experts to create collections to bring a broader perspective, animated by the idea that some topics require more than just a single article or point of view to bring understanding. Pocket might not be where you come to learn who won an election. But it will be where you come to understand why. Since those initial collections around covid and racial justice, we’ve continued to build and explore where best to use this medium. We now have hundreds of collections, ranging from how to talk to people you disagree with and managing Zoom brain to great long reads on scams and the science of the multiverse.
This is the future of Pocket we are continuing to expand — improving our ability to find the right piece of content and recommending it to you at that right moment. We are also trying in our own way to elevate unique voices, helping creators and fantastic independent publishers get in front of new audiences. In time, we may even explore opportunities to tap our users as experts in specific topics and pass the mic to them. As the internet and digital content overload economy continue to evolve, so will we. We won’t pretend to be able to solve the internet’s problems, but we do want to help connect people with the hope and talent and wonder we know still exists on the web.
The internet doesn’t have to be a place that leaves people feeling overwhelmed. For the past 10 years, Pocket has been a corner of the internet where you can joy-scroll and satiate your curiosity about how we got here. Ultimately, our goal is to make sure that using Pocket is time well spent — and will continue to be 10 years from now.