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April 26, 2019, 11:24 a.m.

Luminary says it’s not copying your podcast files and it’s no longer screwing with your stats — but it is killing all your show-notes links on purpose

Those links to your donate page or Patreon signup are “security concerns.”

I know what you’re thinking: Another story on Luminary? Well, they keep making news. Start here if you want some background on why they’ve angered the podcast community and had a rough first week. (Previous stories here and here.)

Here’s the quick summary of where we left things yesterday. Luminary’s podcast app pulls in feeds from lots of publicly available podcasts. But a number of those shows have been asking to be removed. There are a number of different reasons, but the ones drawing the most attention yesterday were that:

(a) Luminary seemed to be making copies of podcasters’ MP3 files and serving the copies to its users — something that might violate copyright and definitely screws up podcasters’ analytics; and

(b) Luminary seemed to be editing podcasts’ show notes, the text that accompanies individual episodes, removing all the links — which are often important for fundraising, merch sales, and other forms of audience revenue.

Yesterday afternoon, Luminary tweeted out an explanation of what it’s doing on the caching issue (which you can read about in more detail here), saying it “has never hosted or cached audio content for any open RSS feed podcast. We used a pass-through approach purely because we believed it would improve performance and speed for our users when listening to public feed audio files, particularly from smaller hosts.” They also say they’ve fixed the issues that might have prevented podcasters from receiving “the data to which they are accustomed.”

This is a good start at an explanation for Luminary — though I’m still not clear how “we never hosted or cached” lines up with “we just wanted to make things faster,” since if you don’t host or cache, it wouldn’t seem to make things faster? Perhaps a server nerd nerdier than me can let us know.

But as for that other big concern podcasters have raised, about Luminary altering their show notes by removing links? The ones that help podcasters make money?

Luminary now says: Yep, we do that — for your own good.

This morning, in a tweet responding to a brief story in Podnews, Luminary confirmed it is indeed stripping out all external links in show notes. And it says they’re a…security concern?

With regard to links, similar to many platforms, we don’t allow external links at this time due to important security concerns. Our policy with regard to show notes relates primarily to these security concerns associated with links (which are typically embedded in show notes).

We understand the important of both links and show notes to creators and are exploring solutions that balance this with the security needs of all podcasters and listeners on the platform.

I don’t want to imply bad faith on anyone’s part here, but “we have to strip out links because security” sounds pretty iffy to me. Links are not exactly new technology! Allowing people to tap on them is a problem literally millions of apps have solved. And lots of other podcast apps seem to handle the same exact links without a problem. (This rundown from 2017 found that Pocket Casts, Overcast, Castro, Player FM, RadioPublic, BeyondPod, CastBox, Acast, and Apple Podcasts, among others, all allow links to be clicked.)

Who knows, maybe there’s some reason Luminary can’t do what everyone else can. But whatever the explanation, Luminary, it’s bad behavior that rightfully angers your fellow producers and you should stop before your very bad week turns into a very bad month and a very bad year.

Image: What Luminary’s homepage would look like with links removed.

POSTED     April 26, 2019, 11:24 a.m.
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