Spool: Save the Web

You’re a busy person. I’m a busy person. There’s no way that we could possibly get through all of the amazing things that we find on the web every day, as we’re constantly bombarded by new links and amazing new Google search results.

Luckily, there are are couple of ways to save these links for later. One of the newest methods is Spool, an app that intelligently saves pages to your account and synchronize them across the web and other devices. I’ve been in the beta for this service for a while now, and my full rundown is below.

Introducing Spool

As I said above, with increasingly busy lives it’s hard to find the time to read, watch, or view everything that we come across on the web. Spool is here to help you, and I’ve found that it does an excellent job.

It’s important to note that right now the service is in beta; they’re good about sending beta invites, but you may have to wait a while in order to gain access to the service. In my testing the ‘beta’ moniker doesn’t really seem to apply to the web service itself, but instead as a test of the underlying infrastructure and mobile apps.

One recent addition is the ability to use Facebook as a single sign-on, bypassing the normal email signup process. I strongly believe that this is the way of the future, as more services want to make signing up as painless as possible (and more and more want you to use your real name, instead of an internet handle). You can still sign up via email, but I imagine that many people will want to use the Facebook sign-on for its simplicity and ease-of-use.

Where Spool aims to stick out from the rest of the pack is with its idea of saving the entire web. Instead of only sending articles into the service, you’re able to send videos and image galleries as well, a nod to the increasing number of sites offering media-rich content. This flexibility allows Spool to become more of a catch-all than other services, and is one of the many strong motivators for making use of the site.

Your Spool

Everything that you save for later is saved to your Spool (which makes sense, given the name of the service). Navigation is easy, and I like that the website uses a grid view and pulls images from articles instead of only offering a list of article titles, as some competitors do. Titles are presented underneath the image that Spool has used, in case an image isn’t enough of a reminder.

Spools' main view is modern and looks nice, presenting your saved items well.

Spools' main view is modern and looks nice, presenting your saved items well.

While you can view your main Spool page, it’s also possible to narrow down your saved items by Unread, Read, and Archived. Each of these works as you would expect, with the Archive acting as a sort of shortstop between saving an item and deleting it from your Spool entirely. Each uses the same grid view, with the Archive page adding a special icon to each thumbnail so that you know you’re browsing the archive.

Spool's default text is just a bit on the small side.

Spool's default text is just a bit on the small side.

Reading an article from your Spool gives you an optimized view of the text, and also loads images while blocking out advertisements or extra ‘fluff’. I wish that the text size were a bit larger, as right now it seems very tiny. It’s readable, certainly, but on a smaller screen it can make you strain your eyes a bit. Images seem to load as you come to them, which is odd, but I found that the article loaded quickly and images were only slightly slower.

Spool's custom video player.

Spool's custom video player.

Videos are played in a custom player, and loaded faster than they did on their home sites. You can adjust the volume, scrub through the video, and enter full-screen mode, offering all of the features that one would expect from a modern video player.

Aside from the issues that I have with loading the images as you come to them (which, admittedly, may be a result of loading an image-heavy article on a slower connection) and the text being a bit small for my tastes, Spool offers an enjoyable web view that allows you to stay in the service instead of bouncing around numerous tabs and websites.

Getting Items In

Adding items to your Spool is easy. They have created bookmarklets that will work in any browser (by which I mean Safari, Firefox, and Chrome, as Internet Explorer hardly counts) and a special Chrome extension. The extension offers further functionality than the bookmarklet does, and has played a part in me using Chrome as my default browser (for now).

Once the item you're saving is done processing, this window will pop up and then disappear on its own in  a few seconds.

Once the item you're saving is done processing, this window will pop up and then disappear on its own in a few seconds.

Once the extension is installed, you’ll notice that links (particularly in Facebook) will have a small Spool icon next to them. Clicking this automatically sends the link into your Spool without you opening the page, allowing you to save time and stay in one window. Mac users will also notice that upon tapping a link with two fingers, the services menu will also include a new ‘Send link to Spool’ item.

A fun easter egg/error message.

A fun easter egg/error message.

The extension is easy to install (as all Chrome extensions are) and works well. I appreciate the added service and enjoy the fact that I can stay in one window. If I had one complaint it would be that I desire an extension for Safari, as I often flip-flop between Chrome and Safari and would like the same ease-of-use across different browsers.

How it Works

While the service itself is exciting, the underlying AI that the Spool founders created is doubly so. Dubbed the Spoolbot, the developers have created an artificial intelligence that will actually view a webpage the same way that you or I would, gathering the useful information and layout to enhance performance and accuracy. While this is, in technical terms, ‘really cool’, there are some weird things that happen when you send an item to the Spoolbot.

An illustration of how the Spoolbot works.

An illustration of how the Spoolbot works.

Perhaps the oddest is with videos. While you may expect that the Spoolbot will just recognize that there is a video present and save it for later, there’s a bit more of an in-depth process going on. According to the developers, Spoolbot will actually watch the video before it saves to your Spool, meaning that it won’t show up for however long the video takes to play. While this is interesting, it can get frustrating if you’re saving a longer video.

The Spoolbot does a good job of capturing the important information from a webpage, and has only been ‘fooled’ by an advertisement once. It saved a single frame from a video advertisement in an article, which is explained by the developers as the ’bot getting confused and thinking that the advertisement is content. Luckily it only saved a single frame, which is infinitely less annoying than watching the whole video.

If there’s going to be a lasting effect from Spool, I believe that it will be the Spoolbot. Instead of using a simple algorithim to detect what you would like to save, Spool uses a complete artificial intelligence to help make your results more accurate.

Should You Spool?

Whether or not you’ll use Spool really depends on how much the service changes as it comes out of beta. Right now the app is free, but that may change in the future. If it continues to be free, then I would definitely say that it’s worth creating an account as soon as possible.

Where other competitors focus on saving articles or videos, Spool allows me to save whatever I would like and has a powerful AI to back it up. While the mobile apps are still fighting an uphill battle for my love, the web-app is solid and enjoyable.


Spool is a new web service with a powerful AI that allows you to save articles, videos, and images for later viewing.