What is Podcasting 2.0?
Fountain is a Podcasting 2.0 app. This suggests it has inherent advantages compared to some of the other podcast apps you might be familiar with. But what exactly do we mean when we talk about Podcasting 2.0 and why does it exist?
In this article we will cover:
What problems exist with podcasting as we know it?
Ever since Apple introduced podcasts to iTunes in 2005, their centralised index of podcasts has become widely used by many other podcast apps that rely on their directory to populate it with the latest episodes.
Podcasters simply publish their content to an RSS feed (usually through a hosting provider) and it will be listed in Apple's index and can fetched by the podcast apps. The RSS feed is an XML file which contains tags that provide the podcast apps with the necessary information for that feed and it's properties so that it can be organised correctly and updated when new episodes are published.
The simplicity of the RSS protocol has helped podcasting reach widespread adoption by a mainstream audience. Although RSS works just as well today as it did at the beginning, the open, independent podcasting ecosystem is increasingly under attack.
Podcasts Are Being Censored
Problems began to arise when Apple started exerting control over which podcasts were deemed to be suitable and those that were not. They had the power to censor, deplatform and demonetise podcasts that did not meet their content guidelines - not only on their platform, but all the other podcast apps that used their index of podcasts. Suddenly free speech in podcasting was under threat.
In recent years, major technology companies such as Spotify, Google and Amazon have entered the podcasting market to compete with Apple. Needless to say, using Apple’s podcast directory was not an option and instead they each chose to launch their own.
As a result, podcasting is now made up of several closed, proprietary platforms in competition with each other. This leads us on to the second problem podcasting faces.
Podcast Features Haven't Evolved
The level of innovation hasn't in podcasting has failed to keep up with it's growing popularity. Most podcast apps today have the same basic set of features that they did when the first mobile apps for podcasts launched over a decade ago.
So why is the experience offered by podcast apps so primitive compared to YouTube? What is stopping podcast apps from enabling comments, playlists, chapters, transcripts, live-streams and other features that make podcasting a richer experience?
Until now, no common language exists for writing and reading tags in RSS feeds. For example, if a podcast has chapters, this feature needs to be supported by the podcast's hosting provider in a way that is recognised by the podcast listening apps.
With large companies like Spotify investing heavily in building walls around their ecosystem, there is no incentive to cooperate on common standards. The result is a highly fragmented podcasting market lacking innovation. Thousands of competing hosting providers and podcast apps that are unable to communicate with each other and share information.
What solutions does Podcasting 2.0 offer?
Podcasting 2.0 is an umbrella term that covers a few decentralised, open source initiatives that protect podcasting from being controlled by large technology companies and puts podcasting's protocols back into the hands of the open podcasting community. Although the key figures behind the movement have been Adam Curry and Dave Jones, Podcasting 2.0 is a community that is guided by clear principles of interoperability and transparency.
We will now take a look at some of these initiatives to better understand what their purpose is, how they are organised and how they have been put into practice.
The Podcast Index
The Podcast Index is an open, censorship-resistant directory of podcasts launched to preserve podcasting as a platform for free speech. Anyone can add a podcast to the index by submitting an RSS feed and any podcast app can use The Podcast Index to populate their search listings. Instead of Apple enforcing decisions about which content is appropriate, the podcast apps can make these decisions for themselves. That's why on Podcasting 2.0 apps like Fountain you will find a broader range of podcasts (with the exception of those podcasts which are available exclusively on other platforms or placed behind a paywall).
Podcasting 2.0 Namespace
A namespace is used to define and organise a set of related objects contained in a programme. In this case, the Podcasting 2.0 Namespace is a framework that the independent podcast community needs to deliver new functionality across the ecosystem. It's the common language that hosting provider and podcast app have been missing.
The namespace is comprised of simple tags that can be added to an RSS feed that ensure that information pertaining to a podcast and it's properties can be shared across platforms. Anyone can propose a tag to be adopted as an official part of the namespace but there must be consensus across the community on it's usefulness as well as get commitment to adoption by at least 1 host and 1 app, or a recognition that the tag is already being used in the wild.
Here are examples of some of the tags which Fountain supports:
Link to a transcript or closed captions file. Multiple tags can be present for multiple transcript formats.
Links to an external file containing chapter data for the episode.
Specifies a person of interest to the podcast. It is primarily intended to identify people like hosts, co-hosts and guests.
There are lots of other tags - many of which will be supported by Fountain soon - and you can read more about these here.
Value for Value
The one tag that has come to define the Podcasting 2.0 namespace and underpin Fountain's purpose is
<podcast:value> (otherwise known as Value for Value). Fundamentally, Value for Value allows listeners to support any podcast directly from their podcast app as they are listening by sending payments over the The Bitcoin Lightning Network almost instantaneously with little to no fees. They can either stream small payments for every minute they spend listening or send a message with a payment attached (known as a Boost).
The value tag in the podcast's RSS feed informs the podcast apps which support this feature that the payment should be divided amongst the splits (as defined by the podcaster). This means that guests, contributors and good causes can receive a share of every payment.
But Value for Value is much more than this. Not only does it helps creators get rewarded for their work, but it’s great for discovery too. When you support a podcast on Fountain, it signals to your friends and other listeners that it’s worth listening to. Boost messages are displayed as comments and you can follow other users to see what they found valuable. The most supported podcasts are also listed in the Hot on Fountain charts. Listeners can also like comments and clips to send them a tip. These are just a few examples of interesting new features that can be built on top of the value tag.
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