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It’s Christmas time for Instapaper fanatics: Developer Marco Arment has finally delivered Instapaper 3.0 for the iPhone and iPad, bringing with it new social features, sharing options, and more.

For those not familiar with the insanely useful service, Instapaper lets you easily save articles on the web to read later. Saved articles appear in a minimal format that strips out unnecessary distractions like ads. You can read the saved pieces on Instapaper’s website, and Arment has also crafted iPhone and iPad apps to gain access to the service on the go.

The apps have turned Instapaper into something more than just a nifty Delicious alternative. Now, Instapaper is without a doubt a critical tool for anyone that loves to read content on the web (if you’re reading this post, that probably means you).

With version 3.0, the single biggest update the service has ever seen, Arment has made Instapaper a less antisocial affair. You can follow friends and view stories they’ve Liked (which replaces the previous Stars feature used to mark interesting stories), as well as share stories you’ve Liked.

The service also has improved connections with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinboard and Evernote to share articles. You can even share articles when offline — which will get queued and eventually posted when you have a network connection.

Arment also included some more ways to find interesting stories: a new Editors section highlights some of the best articles on the web from sites like Longreads, and an improved built-in web browser lets you manually navigate to any site and save it to your Instapaper account. He also removed a feature from the app that let you automatically add RSS feeds to your Instapaper account. The feature was never widely used, Arment said, and its removal has sped up the app significantly.

Other new features include a faster storage engine for stories, “perfect image quality”, and the ability to search the content of articles downloaded to your iPhone or iPad. Eventually, Arment says, he’ll consider adding the ability to search your online archive of Instapaper stories.

The update is the first we’ve seen from Arment after he left his CTO post at Tumblr to work on Instapaper full time in September last year. Version 3.0 marks a turning point for Instapaper — now it feels like less of a hobby and more like a serious attempt to change the way we read online content. With Yahoo getting ready to kill Delicious, and competitor Read It Later lagging behind in features, the door is wide open for Arment to make Instapaper the only tool users need for saving stories.

Instapaper 3.0 is currently available on the iTunes Store for $4.99 for new users. It’s a universal binary, which means you’ll only need to buy it once to use it on your iPhone and iPad. Current owners of the app will be able to upgrade for free.

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