Instapaper, SSL, and You

So a funny thing happened on the way to this blog post. Last week, Instapaper enabled SSL by default. Great news, no? We pushed the change to production, drafted our blog post to announce the news, and then decided to wait a few days until we were sure everything was working as it should. And then, as if on cue, blam! The Heartbleed vulnerability was disclosed on Monday night. It required a bit of scrambling on our part, but nothing too painful.

Here’s what Instapaper users need to know about our Heartbleed fix, followed by an explanation of why and how we turned on SSL by default.

Heartbleed

As soon as Heartbleed came to light, we began taking all the necessary measures to close off any possible vulnerabilities.

On Monday evening, as soon as patches were available, we began patching all of our core systems. By Tuesday morning, our systems and our load balancer (which is operated by Amazon) had all been patched. Today, we have issued a new security certificate and invalidated all of the existing sessions to help ensure that our system stays secure. If you’re into reading certs, you’ll note that our new certificate has a Valid From date that indicates the day we originally purchased it, but the cert itself was replaced this morning.

We have no evidence that any user data was exposed by this vulnerability; however, for the sake of total safety, we are recommending that all users change their passwords.

SSL by Default

At Instapaper, we’re strongly committed to our users’ privacy and data security. In an effort to make Instapaper more secure, we’ve enabled SSL encryption by default for all requests on the service. Encrypting web requests by default makes it harder for others to identify users, and helps protect users who might not be aware that they are being observed. For our users, these changes should be unnoticeable — they will not affect your Instapaper experience and will automatically provide better privacy and data security.

To ensure backward compatibility for third-party applications, we will still allow public API requests over unencrypted HTTP. However, non-SSL API requests for third-party applications are discouraged as of today, and will not be supported as of June 1st, 2014. If you are a developer implementing an integration with Instapaper, we ask that you please take the necessary steps to enable SSL on all API requests prior to June 1st.

While all your requests to Instapaper will be encrypted, it’s important to note that some images and videos that appear inside of articles will still be retrieved via non-secure channels from the original provider. As a result, a hypothetical eavesdropper could potentially infer what content you’re viewing. If that’s a concern for you, some web browsers have settings that will disable the loading of non-SSL elements like images and videos.

For more information about SSL encryption, you can visit the following links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_Layer_Security
https://publib.boulder.ibm.com/tividd/td/TRM/GC32-1323-00/en_US/HTML/admin231.htm

- JM Imbrescia
@thejohnmarc
jm@betaworks.com

Instapaper iOS 5.1.5

Instapaper iOS 5.1.5 launched today! The update contains several new features that have been high on users’ wish lists:

  • Instapaper Daily is now integrated into the “Browse” section. Instapaper Daily shows you the top article each day, giving you another (in this case, data-driven) way to find compelling articles to read.


  • Send to Kindle functionality.  This feature lets subscribers send their Read Later items to Kindle, directly from the Instapaper app. Before using this feature, you must register your Kindle email address with Instapaper.


  • AirPlay support. If you’re watching a long video you’ve saved to Instapaper (don’t forget, Instapaper is great for watching videos later), AirPlay lets you stream it to a bigger screen via, e.g., an Apple TV.


  • Back gestures with pagination enabled.  If you use pagination, you can now swipe left from the first page, or right from the last page, to return to your articles.

and… (wait for it…)

  • Auto-renewable subscriptions!

Implementing renewable subscriptions in the iOS version is an important advance for Instapaper. It’ll help us maintain our business and continue to evolve and improve Instapaper for all users. Above all, auto-renew removes a point of annoyance from the experience of our most active and loyal users.

Before purchasing the renewable subscription, you’ll need to agree to share some personal information, including name, email address, and ZIP code. As per our privacy policy, we promise that we will neither access nor store this additional information. It is simply a requirement of the auto-renewable subscription process, likely due to the feature being available first for magazine and newspaper publishers. So if you subscribe, please don’t be alarmed when you see it in the dialog box:



Also, auto-renewable subscriptions are managed directly through iTunes, and so you’ll have to return to iTunes to unsubscribe (not that you’d ever want to!). To unsubscribe you go to iOS Settings » iTunes » Apple ID » Manage button under Subscriptions setting.

Our next release will be the most ambitious Instapaper update since it was acquired by Betaworks. If you have any feature requests please let us know in the comments.  As always, thank you!

Best,
Brian

Instapaper Safari Extension

Safari users: Saving to Instapaper just got a whole lot better. Last December we rolled out a big update to Instapaper’s Chrome extension, and today we’re happy to announce we’ve brought those same great features to the Safari extension.

What’s new:

  • Shortcut:  A Ctrl+S keyboard shortcut to save the article you’re currently looking at.

  • Right-click:  Added “Instapaper” option to the right-click menu to save the current page, or any link on the current page.

  • Buttons:  Added “Save to Instapaper” buttons directly on Twitter, Reddit, and Hacker News. Alongside each Tweet, Reddit story, or Hacker News item, you’ll now find an inline Instapaper button.

  • Highlighting:  Enabled highlighting for article descriptions. Simply highlight a chunk of text, right-click it and choose “Instapaper” from the right-click menu, and your selection will be the Instapaper description for the article.

  • Toggle options:  The keyboard shortcut and inline saving options can be toggled by going to Safari  Perferences  Extensions  Instapaper

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What’s next on the roadmap for extensions?

  • Close tabs: The option to close a tab automatically after saving to Instapaper.

  • Save directly to folders: The option to save an article directly to an Instapaper folder, using your right-click menu.

  • Custom shortcuts: A customizable keyboard shortcut for saving an article.

If you have the Safari extension already installed you’ll still need to download and install the update manually, but from now on the Safari extension will update automatically whenever it needs to.

As always, let us know in the comments if you have any other feature requests!

Thanks,
Brian

brian@betaworks.com
@bthdonohue

Instapaper Weekly

Just before the holiday we quietly rolled out Instapaper Daily: a website that shows you the most popular article on Instapaper for any given day. Following the launch we added additional features to the Daily, such as keyboard shortcuts, and RSS feeds to each of the Daily pages.

Today, we’re proud to announce Instapaper Weekly: a Sunday-morning email digest of the most popular Instapaper articles from the past 7 days.

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Users who signed up for Instapaper in the past month will receive the Weekly automatically. If you registered before December 12th, you’ll have to manually opt-in to receive the Weekly. You can manage your settings for the Weekly Digest and Instapaper product updates in the Email Settings section to your profile.

The Weekly is Instapaper’s first real email product, and we have more exciting features we’ll be adding to it over the course of the next few months. Stay tuned!

Best,
Brian, @bthdonohue

Introducing Instapaper Daily

At Instapaper, we’re really into sorting the real-time stream of great reading content that flows through our servers. Today, we’re proud to announce our newest experiment - the Instapaper Daily, a retrospective lens that focuses on filtering and exploring quality content.

Instapaper Daily lets you read through a temporally organized collection of the most popular articles on Instapaper. This means you can discover the most popular article today or on each of the last 7 days, or jump to any date or month in 2013 and explore the biggest story on that day.


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Our first attempt to sort Instapaper’s nearly 400 thousand daily web links was through InstaRank, an algorithm that surfaces stories receiving widespread attention in the community.

But we noticed “popularity” is heavily dependent on whether an article is current — and then the content is lost during the next burst of incoming information. Because of this, we’ve spent time exploring the possibilities of filtering in new ways.  

In presenting Instapaper Daily, our aim was to retain the minimalist look, which is why we had Grant Custer (@GrantCuster), the man behind Instapaper’s website redesign, develop The Daily’s look. We realize people have varied interests in different categories of information, so Grant focused on easy category-based browsing and seven topical categories, like business, sports and health.

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In the future, all timelines will automatically update daily to provide you with one most popular article for each day. But in the meantime, feel free to disconnect from the content stream during the holidays. Just come back and check Instapaper Daily for the day’s most popular stories, articles you may have missed, or something entirely new.

suman | deb roy

data scientist, betaworks.

(@_RoySD)

Freebies from Instapaper

Instapaper is feeling a surge of holiday spirit this year.  From December 12th through the 19th, Instapaper for iOS will be free to download as part of Apple’s App of The Week program. We’re really excited to work with Apple to make Instapaper free for a limited time, making the app available to a wider audience of iOS users. 

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We’ve built a ton of improvements into Instapaper this year, including iPhoneiPad, and website redesigns, a rebuilt Android app, powerful sorting and filtering featuresInstaRank, better article parsing and video support, improved dark and sepia modes, and a Chrome extension, among many others. And, perhaps most excitingly, we launched Instapaper in 13 new languages: Japanese, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, Italian, Turkish, Russian, Dutch, and Polish. We’re thrilled that Apple is helping introduce the new, improved Instapaper to users worldwide.

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In addition to the App of the Week, we’re giving away a free 2-month Instapaper subscription to all new users through the end of the year. That means new users get instant access to subscriber-only features like search, third-party API integrations, and better “Send to Kindle” functionality.

We wish you all a happy and healthy holiday and new year!

- Instapaper Team, @instapaper

More love for Instapaper’s browser extension

The easiest, most useful way to get an article into Instapaper is using a browser extension.  If you use the Chrome browser, for example, you can install the Instapaper browser extension, and then all you have to do is click the “I” button whenever you’re looking at an article you’d like to read later in Instapaper.  

Easy, huh?  But wait: There’s more!

In our last Chrome extension blog post, we promised to roll out more features in the coming months.  Well, we just shipped the update!

Here’s what’s new:

  • Added “Save to Instapaper” to the right-click menu to save a page or a link. Now you can right-click on any link, and immediately save that link to Instapaper.
  • Created a keyboard shortcut to save the article you’re looking at.  In Mac OS X, the shortcut is Cmd+Shift+S. In Windows, it’s Ctrl+Shift+S.
  • Added “Save to Instapaper” buttons directly into Twitter, Reddit, Hacker News, and USV, when you go to one of those sites in your Chrome browser. Alongside each Tweet, Reddit story, Hacker News item, or USV post, you’ll now find an inline Instapaper button.
  • Built an Instapaper options page where can you toggle the keyboard shortcut and inline saving buttons for Twitter, Reddit, Hacker News, and USV. You can access this page by right clicking the Instapaper icon and selecting “Options”.
  • Enabled highlighting for article descriptions.  Simply highlight a key chunk of text, right-click it and choose “Save to Instapaper” from the right-click menu, and your selection will be the Instapaper description for the article.
  • If you’ve logged into Chrome using one of your Google accounts, the extension will sync your Instapaper preferences across all of your other logged-in Chrome browsers.

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Here’s what’s next on the roadmap for extensions:

  •  Bringing the Safari extension up to speed with the Chrome extension.
  • The option to close a tab automatically after saving to Instapaper.
  • The option to save an article directly to an Instapaper folder, using your right-click menu.
  • A customizable keyboard shortcut for saving an article.

The Chrome extension will auto-update, but if you haven’t downloaded it already you can grab it here. Let us know if you have any other feature requests in the comments!

Thanks,
Brian

Instapaper for Android: Now Optimized for Tablets

We updated the Instapaper Android app today, focusing on a range of design and performance improvements, new functions, and usability enhancements for Android tablet users.  These upgrades were introduced for Android smartphone users last month;  our aim is that the user experience will be consistent across all Android devices, just as with iOS and web. Head over to Google Play to check it out.

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Here’s what’s new on Android tablet users:

  • Classic Instapaper touches like pull-to-refresh and video support
  • Updated color schemes and minimalist layout
  • Tools for sorting, filtering, and managing your reading queue
  • Better pagination
  • A new native action bar

And what’s new for all Android users:

  • Language support:  13 new languages!
  • Users can now report text problems right in each article
  • Real full screen in Dark mode

As always, we’re focused on making Instapaper the best reading experience, and hope you’ll give us your feedback and suggestions. Next up: Kindle improvements, better text parsing, and some end-of-year fun.  Watch this space.

- Maan, Instapaper Engineer

 @maannajjar

Redesigned Instapaper for iPad

Over the past few months we’ve been steadily upgrading Instapaper, starting with the backend & web app, and then the rollout of the new iPhone and Android apps. The iPad app quickly went from the best experience in our product suite to one that felt really dated.

Today, we’re happy to announce that we’ve redesigned the Instapaper iPad app, and it’s better than ever.

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We started the update by introducing a similar set of design updates that were extremely welcomed on iPhone, and continued to build in the other great features of Instapaper v5:

  • Sorting and filtering
  • Better parsing and organization for videos
  • Browse section to discover editorial and social articles
  • More article options on swipe
  • Pull to refresh

We also made some improvements across both the iPhone and iPad versions of Instapaper:

  • Dark mode is now much darker, in response to your feedback (we’re still listening)
  • More minimal scroll bar in article view
  • Improved accessibility

Now we’re focused on fine-tuning the Instapaper parser, cleaning up the Android tablet experience, improving the typography, and introducing some subtle but powerful features that will really improve the reading experience.

Stay tuned!

Brian, Instapaper Engineer

@bthdonohue

Launched: Updated Instapaper App for Android

Don’t look now (actually, look now!), but there’s an all-new Instapaper for Android app update in Google Play Store. Like our iOS app, this new version has an updated look and feel, a few subtle new features, and a bunch of much-needed performance improvements.

Our biggest priority for Android was upgrading and optimizing the UI so that it’s richer, more useful, and more consistent with the super-clean experience available on iOS.

Feature-wise, we added:

  • Classic Instapaper touches like pull-to-refresh and video support. 

  • Tools for sorting, filtering, and managing your reading queue.

  • A new way to paginate your articles, enabling zippy left/right swiping from page to page.


Our biggest challenge was definitely building an improved Instapaper experience while keeping the look and feel consistent across different Android platforms and devices. We started by adding enhancements from our recent redesign, like the newly-designed color schemes and minimalist layout and found that they translated well across a variety of devices. We then focused on improving the Android app’s navigation for quick and easy access to saved content, plus adding new features.  This meant redesigning the sidebar for folders/videos/search, and adding action bar menus for sorting and filtering to the top of the app.

We’re focused on making Instapaper the best reading experience on all web and mobile devices, and hope that you Android users like the changes!  We really hope you’ll give us your feedback and suggestions.

Next up:  An improved tablet version, more social and sharing features, non-English language translations, and, always, performance improvements.

- Maan Najjar, Instapaper Android Developer 

@maannajjar