An abbreviated version of this was originally published at the Michigan IT News site as “Tech Tip: Wakelet turns many links into one.”
From 2011 to early 2018, Storify had dominated the niche of tools to harvest, collect, and organize social media and related content into meaningful collections, a.k.a. stories. There were other tools, like Lanyrd which collected conference and event content in a similar but more robust fashion with a freemium model, however Lanyrd appears to have vanished around the same time that Storify announced it would be closing. The market was wide open for a replacement, and Wakelet came to the forefront. Wakelet is what we’ve started using, and here we’ll give a quick overview of why, some of the differences, as well as pros and cons [See the sidebar].
Wakelet began in 2016 as a tool for the multiple-URL concept, making it easy to collect a few links on the same concept into a single short URL. MultiURL and OpenMultipleURL were similar tools at that time, but Wakelet didn’t stop there, and has expanded dramatically, adding Twitter import tools, alerts, shares, notifications, and ways to customize and personalize the visual display of collections. With the opportunity provided by the closing of Storify, Wakelet appears to have made an intentional effort to build and integrate new functionalities similar to those provided by the now defunct Storify, but having also added many desired functions that Storify lacked. They add new features and functions so rapidly that we anticipate some of the lacks we describe in this short article will have appeared by the time it’s published. That’s happened multiple times already while we’ve been researching this article!
Wakelet has a number of features that Storify never offered. Foremost among these is the export feature that Storify only made available as they were sunsetting. Wakelet didn’t have that until recently, but it was requested so often, they added it to their to-do list, and within six months it was available as a baked in option. Wakelet allows embedding of elements that Storify did include (such as Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Soundcloud, Tumblr, and YouTube) as well as services that weren’t easily included (Google Maps, Spotify, Amazon, Meetup, Behance, Medium, & Dribble). Wakelet also includes some features that Storify had at one point, but which broke towards the end of their lifecycle, like embedded PDFs or interactive Slideshare content. For Wakelet, many of these services do not have easy import tools, but need to be added through a copy and paste of the URL for the desired item. Other attractive new features from Wakelet include save-as-you-go collection building without requiring that you publish, a variety of privacy levels, and private collections for personal-only use.
There are some features Storify had which we miss in Wakelet. One of these is the descriptive URLs based on the title of the collection. In Storify the collections were referred to as stories, and in Wakelet they are called wakes, but we may use any of the three terms in this article. The descriptive URLs were a big plus for search and discovery, as well as for improving the SEO of the collection. Another feature we miss is being able to automatically sort all of the items in a collection. In Storify, we could toss in all the tweets for a hashtag, all the Instagram pics, Flickr images, YouTube videos, and then tell it to sort them into chronological order. That was super handy. In Wakelet, you need to sort them by hand, and it is slow going because of the infinite scroll. Wakelet does provide a minimalized display to make sorting easier, but it’s still a pain. It would also be nice if Wakelet had import tools like the one for Twitter content but for other popular social media services.
Last but not least, accessibility and intellectual property stuff. Wakelet does a pretty fair job with accessibility, at the level of code elements and passing automated browser tests, but there are still things they could do with accessibility tests at the user level. The basic editing interface (especially the drag and drop features and the sliders) can be problematic for people with fine motor control as well as for users with vision challenges. Infinite scroll is popular right now, so it’s not unexpected that Wakelet would use it, but it causes problems both with certain kinds of users and in browsers or computers with limited memory. In addition, the ‘bounce’ that goes with infinite scroll can be distracting for persons with certain kinds of learning or attention disabilities.
Regarding intellectual property and legal information, Wakelet offers a fairly open license:
“Wakelet does grant you a worldwide, non-exclusive, non-sublicensable, and non-transferable license to download, store, view, display, preform, redistribute, and create derivative works of Content solely in connection with your use of Wakelet, and in accordance with, these Terms.”
It’s important to remember that Wakelet is based in the UK, and that their licensing and copyright laws are not based on United States legislation.
In closing, this is a thing that happened while we were writing this. “Wakelet has already responded to my question from six minutes ago! This is how to run a company. This is fantastic.” Yeah. Not bad. Not bad at all.
SIDEBAR: Wakelet (08/27/2018):
PRO: Runs properly on modern computers/browsers
CON: Possible problems accessing shared content on older computers
PRO: No known problems via AChecker
CON: Drag and drop, infinite scroll, and issues for users with sight and fine motor control limitations
PRO: Save and organize links to articles, videos, tweets, & more. Available for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
CON: Links to extensions are difficult to locate, as they are in a collection and not a page on their website.
PRO: Paid, commercial accounts may create group registered users
CON: Only available for paid accounts and very limited information on these accounts is available
PRO: Supported: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud, Google Maps, Spotify, Amazon, Slideshare, Meetup, Tumblr, YouTube, Behance, Flickr, Medium, & Dribble
CON: Some content must be manually added via URL
PRO: Customizable banner and background images supported by Unsplash
PRO: App available for iOS & Android
PRO: Drag and drop individual items or move to top/bottom
CON: Cannot auto-sort after adding content
PRO: Auto-saves drafts and can save privately before publishing
CON: No advanced search: can only search by keyword
PRO: Very present, active, & responsive
PRO: Rapid! iOS: 17 updates in past year. New feature alerts via Twitter and collection.
PRO: Unique URLs for each collection and profile
CON: No descriptive URLs for collections