The web's reading platform.

Top Reads Tuesday – The New Top Reads

Back in July, we launched Top Reads, our constantly updated snapshot of what’s popular on the Readability platform. Today, we’re proud to announce a new version of Top Reads that brings its design on level with its data. With the help of our team’s clever code, we’re automatically surfacing the pieces Readability users are engaging with the most. And the data isn’t just from our own website and apps. It’s coming from the entire universe of Readability-powered apps, sites, and services built with our API—including heavy hitters like PulseTweetbot, and Reeder.

Top Reads Gets Visual

Now you can browse Top Reads from the last hour, day, or week in a beautiful editorial layout. We think it will help our users find cool and interesting things to read at a glance. We’re also psyched to delve deeper into TypeKit with this release (for the designers out there, we’re using Abril Display for titling and Abril Text for body copy). These touches are a sign of things to come as we roll out more changes to our products.

Readability Loves Responsive Web Design

Our Design Lead Tyler Gaw has a soft spot for Responsive Web Design, and we don’t blame him. Top Reads is flexible, and works with you—rather than making you work with it—across different devices and their varying shapes and sizes. So whether you’re checking out what’s popular on the Readability platform on your 30-inch monitor, smartphone, or tablet, it’ll look great while giving you great things to read.

We hope you enjoy the new Top Reads.

Top Reads Tuesday – Debatable Politics

Every other Tuesday, we highlight content that’s trending on Top Reads, our constantly updated snapshot of what’s popular on the Readability platform.

With the run-up to the US Presidential election—and each candidate’s campaign in full swing—Top Reads continues to be dominated by politics. Tomorrow night President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney will have their first debate of the election. Get ready with the following articles that have been trending in the last seven days:

You can read and highlight all these articles in a single handy Readlist, ready to go on your iPhone, iPad, Kindle, or other ePub-compatible reading device.

Readability on Skyfire Horizon

Today we’re happy to announce that we’ve partnered up with the team at Skyfire to add Readability support to Horizon, their new mobile browser extension platform. Working with wireless carriers and OEMs, Skyfire’s add-ons for Android and iPhone have been downloaded over 15 million times. We’re excited to be bringing the Readability platform to this diverse and vibrant audience.

Build Something Great at Brooklyn Alpha

Want to roll up your sleeves and build something awesome? Come this October, Brooklyn is the place to be. On top of the one-of-a-kind Brooklyn Beta conference, you can meet up with other like-minded folks and get tinkering at the Brooklyn Alpha build-a-thon.

Hosted at the beautiful, funky Cabinet art and event space in Gowanus, Brooklyn Alpha is a friendly gathering of talented designers and developers focused on one thing: building something they’re passionate about.

We’re proud to be sponsoring this year’s event. In addition, our devs will be on hand to talk about Readability’s best-in-class API and help folks get started hacking.

Brooklyn Alpha runs October 9th through the 11th, and registration is open now. Hope to see you there!

Readability Opera Add-On Available Now

Readability is more than a website or an app. It’s an entire platform. Since we’ve opened up our API and provided tools to developers, you can add articles to your Reading List from a wide variety of sites, services, and apps—not to mention from our extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.

Today we’re adding one more to that list with the new Readability add-on for Opera. We’re happy to be expanding Readability’s reach to Opera’s passionate, outspoken community.  Along the way, we’re helping people use Readability the way they want to, with the tools they prefer.

You can download the new Opera Add-On here. Give it a whirl, and let us know what you think!

Top Reads Tuesday – Apple and Amazon

The last two weeks on Top Reads have been all about Amazon and Apple. After both companies held their big media events, Top Reads, our constantly updated list of the most popular articles from across the entire Readability platform, lit up with news and commentary. Some highlights from the last two weeks of the Web’s most-read content:

Want to read through all these articles? We’ve pulled them together into a handy Readlist you can read and highlight on your iPhone, iPad, Kindle, or other ePub-compatible reading device with the click of a button.

A Smarter, Easier to Use Readability for iOS

Today we’re releasing the latest version of Readability for iOS. This update introduces a smarter interface, featuring a completely revamped menu system. We’ve replaced the dropdowns and custom header toggles with sliding cards that get you where you need to go with fewer taps. Check out the demo video and you’ll see what we mean.

We’ve also vastly improved the speed and reliability of sync, and made sure everything is shipshape for iOS 6. When the latest version of Apple’s device operating system ships next week, you’ll be ready with the most rock-solid Readability yet on your iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.

Make Your Own Personal, Timely Travel Guides with Readlists

Traveling can be fantastic—once you’re out the door and on your way. Actually planning your trip can be a real chore. Some people just grab their stuff and go, but a lot of us like to do research before taking off.

In the past we lugged around bulky travel guides, but now people are turning to the Internet more and more for up-to-date travel information they can keep right in their pocket. With Readlists, you can easily take the articles and blog posts you’ve found scattered around the Web and create your own personal travel ebook.

Here’s one for Manhattan—heart of the bustling city we love, and where Readability calls home. This user collected a few travel articles, dropped them in, and they were good to go. It doesn’t have to end there, though. You can add your own links to cover events or sights that you’re interested in, like a writeup of that museum show you want to visit, or a review of that new food truck you want to scope out. The sky’s the limit.

When you compile your own personal travel ebook with Readlists, you only get the stuff you want. Then you can send it to your iPhone, iPad, Kindle, or other compatible device with the click of a button. We’ll do the heavy lifting when it comes to technical stuff. You just have to remember to bring your trusty gadget and have a good time.

Bon voyage!

Image by Flickr user ZeroOne used under a Creative Commons license.

Boosting Readability Platform Performance

At Readability, we’re constantly adapting our infrastructure to add features, keep up with user requests, and solve problems in better ways. Recently, we made a set of updates that helped speed up API requests 15-25% and reduce our fleet of app servers by 60%.

A Smarter Cloud

Like lots of other web-based platforms, we host with Amazon. It’s been great for quickly spinning up new test instances to play around with, allocating additional capacity on demand, and rock solid services like SES and S3.

Up until recently, we were serving all traffic with the fairly standard nginx/Apache/mod_wsgi stack. Things ran smoothly, but we thought we could find a better, custom-tailored solution. During our evaluation process we tried out lots application servers, like uWSGI and fapws3, but finally settled on gunicorn.

What we love about gunicorn is its emphasis on hosting Django apps (which Readability is based on), its wealth of configuration and tuning options, and the ability to include it as part of our application with very few external dependencies. We also thought it would be more performant, but we were surprised at exactly how much so!

We also took the time to evaluate our instance types at Amazon. We launched using m1.xlarge instances, but after switching to gunicorn we had a much lower memory footprint and didn’t need all the extra memory that m1.xlarges provide. Our workload is much more CPU-bound, due in part to our parser engine, and we decided to experiment with c1.xlarge.

Not only did the switch to gunicorn and c1.xlarge instances reduce our costs, it dramatically improved our performance. That means faster page loads, faster API access, and faster syncing for your Readability apps. On top of all that, by making use of Amazon’s best practices and components such as ELB we were able to implement these changes with zero downtime.

Wheels in Motion

Scaling a platform the size of Readability on the fly has its challenges. To borrow a turn of phrase, it can be like changing the tires on a car going 100 miles an hour. We’re happy to have found such a great fit with gunicorn and great hosting solutions at Amazon to allow us to test and make these changes quickly and easily.

Interested in changing the tires on a car going 100 miles an hour? Come work with us!

Sunstroke Updates with Readability Support

Since the Readability platform first launched, we’ve issued more than 1,500 API keys to developers. Every day folks are plugging into the rapidly expanding universe of apps, sites, and services that take advantage of Readability’s flexibility and reach, and they’re all doing it in different ways.

Sunstroke, the first iPhone client for Shaun Inman’s Fever, just released it’s latest update, including support for Readability. “Readability has been one of the most popular requests,” Sunstroke developer Anthony Drendel told us. “As a developer, adding support for sending articles to Readability was simple. The API documentation was easy to understand and very thorough. I especially liked that Readability uses XAuth. It’s easy to implement, and doesn’t require me to store usernames and passwords.”

We’re happy to be a part of the work independent developers like Anthony are doing. Sunstroke is available now on the iTunes App Store for $4.99.