Betaworks, the company that rescued Digg from the toilet, has just bought a majority stake in Instapaper from Marco Arment. The biggest question is what will become of Instapaper, which rose to the top amongst the many bookmarking/mobile reader apps because of its superior design and engineering.
Digg was acquired at what seemed like the end of its life, whereas Instapaper is thriving at the moment.
Arment announced the deal on his blog, saying that his company had expanded beyond what he anticipated when he launched Instapaper in 2008. But, his reasons aside, the important news is that Arment has taken care to ensure that all the users who are invested in his product will be taken care of.
We've structured the deal with Instapaper's health and longevity as the top priority, with incentives to keep it going well into the future. I will continue advising the project indefinitely, while Betaworks will take over its operations, expand its staff, and develop it further.
In other words, this isn't going to be one of those deals where a mammoth company acquires a smaller company only to shutter it and implement its technology elsewhere. Instapaper will live on. This is, I'll remind you again, the company that revived Digg in just six weeks — not to mention that Betaworks isn't exactly Google or anything.
But there's more than enough reason to think that Betaworks might have additional plans for the tech that Arment built, especially as Digg prepares to launch an RSS reader this summer. As a mobile reader and bookmarking app, Instapaper is a natural fit for Digg, which is basically a source of interesting things to read about online. Put the two together and you've got some textbook synergy going on. Jack Donaghy would be proud.
Arment has done such a nice job with Instapaper since 2008 that we're a little sad to see him hand it over to someone else. At the very least, he sold Instapaper to a small company that wants to nurture the product, rather than to a titan that would eat it alive and absorb its entrails.
Update: PaidContent interviewed Arment about the deal and asked him about what new features will come to the new Instapaper.
I have a lot of half-done major features that Betaworks is going to take to completion. I want to have a fresh new design on the app, new sidebars... so many things I got partially through or didn't have the time to start. The service has always been about doing the basics really well, not about having a million different features. That's what I'm looking forward to, going forward — a staff that can keep up with a lot of that stuff.
Read Arment's whole interview at PaidContent.