Lovin’ @Cloudflare – getting 25% speed improvement on our site!

As you know due to the events in Libya, we had some problems with our LY domain name. As a result we were forced to search for a new nameserver. We considered a number of options, DNSPod, CloudFlare, DynDNS, FreeDNS, and many others.

Eventually we settled on CloudFlare’s CDN service and have since seen 25-40% speed improvement based on ping and tracert tests. Highly recommend anyone else who is considering a switch to consider CloudFlare, has definitely made a difference for us!

 

 

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Integrating free text messaging with @Twilio – service will be available in late April

As the launch of our Beta approaches we are making final preparations to add text messaging functionality. This would allow you to send free text messages to your friends via your iPhone or Android phone.

We found Twilio to be the easiest and quickest option to integrate text messaging with our application and have been thrilled by the service since. After updating our profile on Twilio and registering for their service I began receving personal emails from one of their customer service representatives:

Hi Robert,

I saw that you updated your public Twilio developer profile recently, so I wanted to drop you a note to see how things are going with FoxFly and ask if there is anything we can do to help?

At first I thought these were automated so I didn’t pay too much attention, but as we began testing and interacting more with Twilio’s API, we continued receiving messages, which was a really pleasant surprise. Eventually I replied and had a smart discussion and got some good feedback for Foxfly. If you are considering integrating text messaging functionality into your app I strongly recommend Twilio!

 


LY domain problems that led to service interruptions this weekend – Resolved!

We delivered a service announcement today to all Foxfly users via email with the following message that we are reposting here:

Dear Foxfly users,

Thank you for continued support during our Alpha test period. Due to the events in Libya one of our domain names (foxf.ly) was affected this weekend causing the New Space and Sign up functions to stop working. We deeply apologize for the inconvenience this has caused and have resolved the issue.

If you haven’t already, you can download our latest update available now on the AppStore. There are lots of exciting updates, including:

– Login with Facebook
– Auto-discover phonebook contacts who are already on Foxfly
– Auto-groups with co-workers and classmates
– New gorgeous collage design

May brings a lot of exciting updates, as we are preparing to launch our Beta version along with a Android app and improved website design with messaging functionality. Text messaging integration, allowing you to send free text messages to friends without Foxfly through our apps is also coming in May.

So make sure to stayed tuned!

Thank you again for your support.

– Foxfly Team

Follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/foxflygroups
Follow us on Facebook: http://twitter.com/foxflygroups

 


Test Foxfly before it hits the AppStore http://bit.ly/hz9vUf on @testflightapp

Get a sneak peak on Foxfly Messenger v1.4!

TestFlight offers an easy way to install our pre-AppStore app so that you can get a sneak peak before everyone else does. If at any point you have any questions or suggestions feel free to submit them directly to Cindy our customer support rep that you will find when you open the app! Thanks again for you support.

Features to watch out for –

– Redesigned collage
– Facebook Login
– Auto-friend search of your phonebook and Facebook friends
– Auto-groups for classmates and colleagues

 


Color & the Elastic network @ the Cross-section of Group Messaging and Photo-sharing

Color-app-itunes

Although Color is technically in the photo-sharing space, the concept of the Elastic Network is an important one that is deeply connected to the success and concept behind group-messaging. The obvious points here are that static ‘friend’ lists like that on Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn are poor indicators of the strength of our relationships. Our real-world social graph is a living network that is represented by individuals, groups and connections that merge, divide, regroup, strengthen and weaken over time. Group messaging has caught on to this, providing users with a simple platform to separate the key groups in their lives, but is still not as flexible as Color’s Elastic Network.

Relationships are defined by shared experiences

I once had a discussion with a good friend about long distance relationships who said, “relationships are defined by shared experiences.” When reading about Color this really struck a chord. All too often I find myself remembering people based not on who they are, but rather where I met them and who I met them through, e.g. “Dan’s friend from the office party.” Color captures these shared experiences through photos and orders your friends in terms of how many shared experiences you have them with. Despite all their problems with their user experience this concept and the mechanics behind it are truly revolutionary in how we define our social graph.

Shared experiences are the basis for all our social communication

The term “shared experiences” is a broad term, but the most powerful type of shared experience is one where both people are in the same place at the same time and interacting in one way or another. When we first meet someone that person becomes connected to that experience and place. As we interact more and more with that person, that person becomes connected to other friends in our network and other experiences. Eventually those shared connections and experiences add up to a strong relationship, someone you would actually call a friend.

The genius behind Color is that it captures all of this automatically and uses it to order your “friends” the way they should naturally be ordered. However where Color falls down is the fact that I already have an implicit ordering of friends in my head and Color wants me to rebuild it from scratch. Group messaging on the other hand has started from the other end of the spectrum – provide the platform and let users apply their implicit friend order in the groups they create. I am sure that it will not be long before the two collide.

 


Foxly v1.4 submitted to Apple! Keep a watch for the update next week. Also lots of big things to come…

3

Submitted v1.4 to Apple late last night. This is a huge update and includes the following things:

  • Login with Facebook
  • Auto-find friends from your phonebook
  • Real-time messaging (with push notification service)
  • View full size photos
  • Auto-groups for you and your co-workers and classmates!

Auto-groups is something we’re particularly excited about. Grouping you with your co-workers and classmates who are on Foxfly is just the first step, but there is a lot more planned to come. Our next update is going to come close on the heels of this one and will finally bring much anticipated SMS integration (through Twilio’s API) and more ways in which we recommend groups for you to join.

Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to capture your offline social groups and stay in touch with them through Foxfly, so our next version will have some additional features that will leverage our platform to do just that.

If you want a sneak peak of our upcoming ver before Apple releases it and to become a member of our testing community feel free to contact us at marketing@foxfly.com!

 


Great post from RWW on group messaging – Group Messaging: Why Now?

If 2010 was the year of location-based services, then 2011 is certainly the year of group messaging. With a slew of new group messaging apps dominating this year’s SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, the big questions have been why now and why not Facebook or Twitter?

The answer, it seems, could be very simple. Group messaging apps do something that sites like Facebook and Twitter don’t – they take away the magic and the guesswork and provide a blunt instrument for communicating with small groups of people using both data and text messaging.

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Last week, I moderated a panel on group messaging and one of my first questions was, “Why now?” The only real answer I got, however, was that smartphone adoption had reached a level where group messaging had become feasible. And that makes sense – SMS technology isn’t able to function in the same way, whereas smartphones can mix data and SMS and act as hubs for group communication. Smartphones, by using data, also bypass absurdly overpriced text messaging fees. I don’t know about you, but I still refuse to pay an extra $20 a month for unlimited text messages.

The question, in my mind, then became “Why is it so popular now?” Of course, I like talking with my friends, but don’t I have a million tools to do this already? The two most obvious examples of this would be Facebook and Twitter. But both lack in some very specific ways, as do many other services of their kind, that opened up the space for this onslaught of group messaging apps.

How Facebook and Twitter Fail at Group Messaging

In the case of Twitter, we find a tool that is not truly built for conversation. At its core, it was built as a way to update the Web through SMS, so while mobile communication lies at its core, group communication does not. The @reply and the hashtag were user-created functions that tried to solve the issue of communicating with other users. But they only sort of work. If you try to have a Twitter conversation with multiple people, you quickly find that you’re running out of space for your message as you tack on new names to include in the conversation. There are still only 140 characters. Twitter is also inherently public and the only way to make communication private is to either send direct messages to other individual users or to close off your follower network entirely. On average, Twitter is best as a broadcast tool and secondly as a tool for one-on-one interaction, not as a group communication tool.

So, Twitter’s out. What about Facebook? Facebook is for communicating with your friends, right? There are a couple issues for Facebook in this realm, which the company is likely trying to address with the recent acquisition of leading group messaging app Beluga.

When it comes to Facebook, there are a few distinct ways to communicate with friends and groups. There is the status update, the message (which it recently combined with chat and SMS, to attempt to address this very issue) and then the group-specific update and message. In terms of the status update, there is something very key getting in the way – magic.

When you put up a status update, you have no idea who will see it on the other end. Ask “Anyone want to go out on the town tonight?” in a status update and you’re likely to get a response from that kid you knew in high school, your bored friend who lives in another state and your cousin. Facebook also introduced a “Groups” feature last fall to address this issue, but it’s more topically-focused and static than most group communication requires. As for messages, Facebook announced an entirely new and entirely confusing messaging system last fall that is supposed to seamlessly connect users across devices, whether laptop, tablet, smartphone or feature phone. Four months later, and still not all users have the new system.

Beyond that, Facebook still manages to confuse its users with the idea of whether or not their friends are online or offline. Never mind the fact the little “online” or “idle” icon seems to have little to no bearing on whether or not your friend is present, but it also seems to indicate that we need to change our method of communication based on what it says. Suddenly we need to consider whether or not the user on the other end is at a computer currently or not, when really it doesn’t matter.

Facebook is trying to fix this with its new system, but still it has different words and slightly different definitions for forms of on-site communication that only confuse the issue. Do I want to “chat” or “message” you? Yes. Chatting is messaging, just faster. But messaging can involve multiple people, while Facebook’s chat is only one-on-one. Confused yet?

Group Messaging: Interruptive, Mobile & Un-Magical

Enter group messaging apps like Beluga, GroupMe, Kik, Fast Society and slew of other apps hitting the market as we speak. Group messaging apps simply assume that you are engaging in a real-time and asynchronous communication.

Group messaging apps make it simple to communicate with the people you want to communicate with. There is no magic involved. There is no algorithm. You’re not throwing a message into a bottle to see who finds it on the other end – you’re sending out a message that will arrive as an interruptive SMS or push notification on the phone in all your friends’ pockets, wherever they may be. You’re quickly creating and reorganizing social circles, on the go, according to the situation. And that communication is as private (or public, as with GroupMe’s “joinable” groups) as you want it to be. And even your SMS-only, feature phone toting friends can play along.

Until now, we’ve dealt with large-scale social networks and the communication within has been largely public and imprecise. On the converse, it has been too precise, only properly functioning for one-on-one messaging or more static, topically focused grouping. Group messaging sneaks in beneath and finds a way quickly into our pockets and our daily lives.

Of course, this realm of new apps has taken off quicker with techies and early adopter types, but get ready for the oncoming mainstream explosion. Last year’s location-based apps took explanation and still haven’t gone mainstream. Sharing your location with the general public can be scary. Sharing your thoughts and ideas, your location and your pictures, with small groups of friends is the exact opposite. It’s natural, it’s friendly and it’s going to be huge.