Winds is cross-platform software. There are desktop apps available for Linux, macOS and Windows. There’s also a web version. The software is released under an open source license (BSD-3-Clause). It’s developed by GetStream.io (Stream), a Venture Capital backed company based in the US and the Netherlands.
So what’s the motivation behind developing Winds? Winds started out as a simple example application for the Stream API. But it’s development became an effort to revive the flagging open standard of RSS and encourage publications to embrace open standards and RSS.
The developers don’t offer a package for Ubuntu or any specific distribution. And while I carefully went through their GitHub repository, I couldn’t find any clear instructions on how to compile the source code. I’m certainly not an expert at compiling software, but I usually manage to compile most software. Maybe the lack of distro specific packages is a deliberate policy by the developers. Given the frequency of the releases, and the number of Linux distributions, it’s probably a wise decision.
However, there is an official AppImage. This is essentially a self-mounting disk image that contains the application and everything it needs to run on the system. It allows you to run the application without installing on the system. There’s also a snap available. There’s quite a few differences between AppImage and snap, but they both have one thing in common – simplicity. There’s no worrying about incompatible libraries, both are self-contained, separate from the system. Personally, I tend to steer away from these package formats for a variety of reasons.
Before you can use the software you need to create a Winds account. I’d prefer some integration with social media sites here.
Key Features of Winds
- Provides both a personalized feed using machine learning powered by Steam, in addition to a chronological view. The personalized feed view attempts to promote the most interesting content.
- Uses Algolia for searching.
- Video support for YouTube and Ted.
- OPML imports – export your OMPL file from your current RSS manager and transfer it over to Winds.
- Option to skip the on-board process.
- Cross-platform support including a web version.
Here’s a couple of images of Winds in action.
My (random) observations
These comments apply to the AppImage version 2.1.47.
Let’s start with some probably insignificant annoyances. The menu bar is largely inaccessible to keyboard users, it’s laggy and almost completely pointless. For example File / About offers no output, the Window menu is redundant. And hopefully the developers will remove the GitHub graphic – it’s just unnecessary clutter.
But there are lots of positives. Most importantly, I’m quite taken with the app, marrying a good podcast player with a competent RSS reader. The layout is polished and well thought out. Being able to import my OPML file is a necessity for me, so the app ticks that box.
Winds relies on a whole bunch of interesting technologies. Probably too many though. If you need suggested feeds, the machine learning feature is pretty nifty.
The software is far from stable. It crashed too many times for my liking.
Let’s capture the technologies that the software uses; some of them might be new to you.
- Stream – an API for building activity feeds that enables development teams to build personalized activity feeds. Stream’s machine learning adapts to a user’s preferences. The follow suggestions and the list of articles from the feeds you follow is powered by Stream.
- Express – a minimal and flexible Node.js web application framework that provides a robust set of features for web and mobile applications.
- Bull – a Redis-based queue for Node.
- Algolia – a powerful hosted search API. It’s used for quick and relevant search.
- MongoDB Atlas – provides a Database as a Service, and serves as the backend datastore for Winds.
- SendGrid – used for email such as password resets.
- Mercury – used to parse articles.
- AWS – provides the hosting for the web version.
Does Winds replace the finest standalone podcast players and RSS viewers? Currently not by a country mile, but it’s definitely worth monitoring its development.
Winds features in our Group Test: Best Podcast tools. Learn about other excellent, free, open source podcast software.
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