Airshow 2.0, Feedbin’s podcast app for iPhone and iPad, is out now.
This release aims to address all the most common feature requests and some surprises. This includes:
Playlists: Airshow takes a streamlined approach to playlists. Most podcast players make playlist management in the same style as a music playlist. You subscribe to some shows, then you create a playlist separately.
However podcasts are different. You typically only listen to an episode one time, so there’s no need to manage playlists separately. Instead, Airshow lets you choose or create a playlist when subscribing to the show, making it a one step process to add a new show to a playlist.
Speed Controls: People really like listening to podcasts faster than real-time.
Sleep Timers: Another common request, now available right on the player screen.
Download Manager: See and manage your downloads in one place. This is also helpful for surfacing download errors.
Mini Player: This makes it possible to see what’s playing and control playback from anywhere in the app.
More Chapter Art: Chapter specific artwork is now displayed on the lock screen during playback.
Feedbin’s Twitter access was revoked because “this App has violated Twitter Rules and policies.” Which is the same message many Twitter clients received in January when Twitter first started turning off API access.
Feedbin has long supported sending yourself a push notification from an Action. Previously this was available in Safari only. However as of Safari 16, most browsers support the standard Push API, so Feedbin now uses this for notifications. This makes the feature more widely available.
Push notifications can be intrusive, so why support them at all? I think Feedbin is in a unique position to get you exactly the notifications you want. A website that offers notifications will likely send you a notification for everything that is published, but with Feedbin you can narrow this down to a single source or search.
It also enables notifications for any website with an RSS feed, not just the sites that implement notifications.
A lot of customers have asked about the future of Twitter support in Feedbin. Even with today’s update there’s still not enough information to make a decision.
Feedbin’s priority is to keep the stuff that you subscribe to up-to-date, so the plan is to continue to use the API. However, it also depends on what the price ends up being:
If it’s cheap, Feedbin will just pay the fee and everything will continue as usual.
If it’s expensive, Twitter support could be available as a paid feature.
If it’s very expensive, say to the point where the paid upgrade price would cost more than a Feedbin subscription, Twitter support will likely be removed.
Finally, it’s unclear to me if Feedbin is even a valid product category according to the new rules. All this does not matter if they decide to revoke Feedbin’s access.
As I write this, Feedbin can’t connect to Twitter’s API. It returns a “Too many requests” error for every attempt. It looks more like a bug based on the other wide-spread Twitter issues from the last few days.
I was impressed with the set-up experience using the official image in the Digital Ocean Marketplace. Much like a website or email address, you get the most flexibility when you use your own domain for any web presence, and the Mastodon team has made that easy.
Search has been improved at every level, with new features, software, and hardware. Oh, and it’s about 10 times faster.
There’s a nice new way to search within a feed or tag. When you start typing in the search field, Feedbin will suggest sources to search within. Choosing one of these sources will filter the search to only find results within your selection.
When you already have a feed or tag selected in the source column, the search field will be automatically scoped to the selected source.
There’s also a few new fields that you can use to find exactly what you’re looking for.
You’ve long been able to search by the published date, but this field has a new feature: relative dates.
For example, if you want to set up a saved search to see all your unread articles that were published in the last 24 hours, you could use the query: published:>now-1d is:unread. You can also search for a range. For example if you want all unread articles that were published yesterday, this is how: published:[now-2d TO now-1d] is:unread
Next up, link. Link can be used to search for the presence of links to specific domains. To find an article that links the the New York Times you could search for link:nytimes.com. Link is also fully subdomain aware so you could search for link:cooking.nytimes.com. This field supports the ability to search for multiple values, like link:(nytimes.com OR sfchronicle.com)
Feedbin has become omnivorous in terms of the types of content it ingests. To reflect this direction, search has gained the ability to filter by type. These are the types you can search for:
For the podcast and youtube types, there’s another new field: media_duration.
Say you’re as old as I am, and you never want to see a “short” in your YouTube subscriptions. You could create an Action that marks matches to this query as read:
To power all of this, the search infrastructure was upgraded as well. Feedbin had been using an ancient version of elasticsearch. This was showing its age with poor performance and flaky reliability. Upgrading to elasticsearch 8 fixed the reliability, but the performance still wasn’t great. The 95th percentile response time for a search was hovering around 1.5 - 3 seconds.
To remedy this, a hardware upgrade was needed. These are the specs for the new search server configuration:
AMD Ryzen 5950x (16 3.4GHz cores)
128GB RAM (DDR4-3200)
4TB storage (PCIe 4 NVMe)
Mellanox 10Gb NIC
Feedbin’s application servers were upgraded to use Ryzen 5000 series CPUs back in 2021 and I’ve been happy with the performance. They’re clocked higher than most EPYC or Xeon parts and don’t come with the premium price tag or high power requirements. The 5950x comes with 16 cores and 32 threads, so it’s actually great for highly concurrent server configurations, as you’re not giving much up in terms of core count.
Once this new configuration was installed at Feedbin’s datacenter, search performance improved dramatically.
The response time is now consistently under 200 milliseconds.
Feedbin has some new features for your Mastodon reading pleasure.
Mastodon supports RSS. However, RSS auto-discovery has been broken on the latest Mastodon release for some time. To remedy this situation, Feedbin will do some extra work to help determine where the RSS feed is. With this in place, all you have to do to subscribe is enter the URL for a user like mastodon.social/@example.
Next is the format. Mastodon gets the same great treatment as all short and title-less posts in Feedbin, just like Twitter and Micro.blog. The great thing about this is that there’s nothing actually Mastodon-specific here. Any RSS feed can be styled this way.
If a Mastodon post includes a link to a YouTube video or other media, Feedbin will expand the embed right the in the content area. Posts with links will also show the full extracted content and a nice card preview where available.
To round out the support, Feedbin now has the ability to post directly to your Mastodon account, with a new built-in sharing service. It will even pre-fill the post with the title and URL of the currently selected article. You can enable this in the Share & Save section of settings.
The idea for the first version is simple: a podcast app that has only the features required to actually listen to and enjoy the shows you love.
There are many great podcast apps out there, so why make another one? Two reasons:
To add value to your Feedbin subscription.
To see if there is an opportunity to make something simpler and nicer than the existing options.
There are two ways I think about podcasts. Entertainment or informational. The design philosophy behind Airshow is to treat podcasts as entertainment where the words, and the space between words are part of the medium. So for now it omits some features you might be used to like speed control or sound effects.
It also takes a lightweight approach to organizing your podcasts. Playlists, folders, etc… provide a lot of flexibility, but they also make it to easy to oversubscribe and bury shows that you subscribe to aspirationally. Instead there’s one place to go to listen: your queue. The idea here is to spend less time managing and just subscribe to shows you actually want to listen to.
New episodes for shows you subscribe to get automatically added to your queue. For podcasts where you only want to listen to the occasional episode, there’s bookmarks. From here you can browse episodes and manually choose what to download.
There are three ways to use Airshow:
Sync with your existing Feedbin account at no additional cost
Completely free without sync
A new Airshow only sync plan priced at $19.99/year
This goal for now is to get the basics right and to have a simple, lovable and complete product. Please give it a try if that sounds like something you might enjoy.