Many of you will have noticed some changes around here. My posting frequency on this blog has gone down a bunch and my online presence has been silent except for some sporadic tweets. I have been keeping busy hacking away on Notifo for about 3 months now and we're making some great progress that I'd like to share with everyone. As I mentioned in my first post about Notifo, I joined as Co-Founder alongside Chad and we have been working out of a garage in Menlo Park. We then began splitting up the commute and started working out of my apartment in San Francisco every other week. But one of us would still incur a hefty 3 hour roundtrip commute in addition to the usual ~12 hour work day. Fortunately, this commute will go away when Chad moves to San Francisco in mid-September and our productivity will skyrocket, but I digress.
Like my "Full-time Startup: Skribit Week X" posts, I hope to share my startup journey with Notifo in similar manner.
Tell me one more time. What is Notifo?
Like all platforms, Notifo can prove difficult to explain without providing prospective users a set of use cases that are directly relevant to their daily lives. As new services and projects are built on top of Notifo, this job becomes much easier. For example, my friend Dimitry didn't quite understand Notifo until he saw Philip Kelly release his IKEA Product availability notifier.
Notifo enables anyone to send impossibly quick push notifications to their mobile devices and those of their users/subscribers. Notifications usually arrive in under 3 seconds. Notifo strives to build and manage the things below so users and services don't:
- Mobile and desktop applications that receive Notifo notifications for a variety of devices
- Notifo push backend, API, and web app where everything for users and services can be managed, services can view analytics and so on
The real draw of Notifo for services? Not having to make their own mobile/client applications for every mobile device their users use. Today we have an iPhone app, and you can bet we'll be expanding to other mobile devices quickly.
The current Notifo Service Dashboard. Future implementations will provide services with in-depth analytics and [off the record awesome feature]
Hacker News user Patrick McKenzie (patio11) says it best:
A permission marketing channel in the pocket of your users? Yes, please. [Notifo] solves a real, pressing need for many sites: maintaining user engagement after they're off your website. That is pure profit for the company, since you've already spent whatever form of resources it took to acquire them as a signup in the first place.
Anyone can create a Notifo Service with our API and any user can subscribe to a service. Users can fine-tune how they receive these notifications (more in the next section). There is also the concept of a "project"; like a self-hosted service but using the user's own API key instead and can only send the user notifications. Notifications sent through the user's personal API key are entirely free. More Services and projects listed here »
We will be releasing a complete pricing model soon but in short: everything for users will always be free (though services could be made that charge for certain things, like real-time sports scores), while services will pay monthly based on the number of notifications they send, with a few add-on features not yet announced that will incur additional fees.
Last week we launched a complete website overhaul along with a new support forum. This is the first step into growing a community around Notifo. The services page currently lists some of the services and projects on Notifo, but will be replaced down the line with a more robust gallery giving people a public place where they can promote and manage their services and projects. The first versions of a new user setup guide and developer guide were released then as well. More developer-centric guides and documentation will be added in the near future.
We also launched a desktop app for OS X last week. But that's not what this blog post is about. The next version of our iPhone app that just went live this morning. Considering that it has not been updated for a few months, this release has much more than just a handful of new features. Here are the more notable changes and features:
- User Text Messaging — Send free messages to other Notifo users in addition to images.
- Set how, when and where you want to receive notifications with advanced service settings and new notification types.
- Manage your notifications, service subscriptions and more all within the application
- 20+ sounds to choose from for each notification type.
Why add user messaging? First and foremost, Notifo is and will always be entirely focused on notifications for services. We are introducing user messaging today as a way to help grow the number of installed Notifo apps while services is still maturing. If you want to use Notifo's user message to forego SMS text charges then you're likely to tell your friends about it too. Then they will find interesting services to subscribe to.. and so on. It's the chicken and egg problem – services don't want to use a platform with no users, users don't want to use something that they can't do anything with.
The Notifo app is still based around the "inbox for your push notifications" concept with a tab for notifications and a new tab for conversations. Tap a notification to expand the message, double tap to open any attached URL (notifications from certain services like Push.ly will switch to the corresponding app already on your phone, like Twitter for iPhone if a tweet is linked), or tap and hold to copy the notification message.
The real treats are for power users:
- Send any website linked to a notification to your Instapaper account
- Tap "Grouped" when on the Notifications tab to group your notifications by service. Then, tap any service to see them grouped by service event.
- Have lots of active conversations? Tap "Edit" then "Mark All Read".
- Scroll to the top of any conversation and tap "User Options" to block the user, report as spam, change the notification sound played when you receive their notification, or change the notification type to one of the following:
- Normal — sound/vibration active when not in quiet hours
- Important — audible regardless of any quiet hours set
- Silent — notification pops up and screen lights up but no sound/vibration
- Stealth — no audible/visible notification but they will appear in the conversation timeline
- Manage service subscriptions entirely within the iPhone app
- Services have several new notification types, in addition to the ones listed earlier for users:
- Momentary — will be delivered to your mobile device with sound/vibration in addition to any desktop clients you have setup but will not be stored in your account or shown in your notifications timeline. (Ideal for high-volume services)
- Desktop Only — only delivered to any linked desktop clients, not mobile devices (Ideal for high-volume services)
- Ignore — Will not be received or displayed anywhere. Ideal for not showing particular service events that you may not care about while not blocking the entire service.
- User Messaging details will soon be added to our API... which opens the doors for bots! Anyone will be able to build a bot that can respond to a set of commands to fetch some data for you or pretty much do anything for you, all in real-time. We have a few proof-of-concept bots currently in place: notifo, Facebook, Twitter and Posterous bots. Just message any of them (the latter three need to be setup in the "Connect With..." Settings).
There's a lot to absorb here so it's probably just best to install the free Notifo iPhone app for yourself and tinker around. My favorite part of this release is all the notification types paired with individual service events. This enables you to have many different sounds and notification delivery options for the different types of services to which you subscribe.
Search for "Notifo" in the App Store and install it, then signup for an account and setup services on Notifo.com. Let us know what you think!
Shot with my new Sony NEX-5 + 18-55 lens
Push.ly, Meet Site Streams
Last but not least, our flagship Notifo service, Push.ly, has been polished up with Twitter's latest super-fast API dubbed Site Streams. Push.ly is among the first to launch with the new beta of Site Streams. This means that users can have not only Twitter @-replies pushed to their phone (including from private accounts, new with Site Streams) but also DMs (which previously would have required some funky and slow email forwarding to work), new follower notifications and favorites.
Push.ly is a great service to put the new iPhone app's notification and event settings to use. More info in our official announcement!
Left to Right: 1) Push.ly Service Settings, 2) Event Listing, 3) Settings page for a particular Event with various sounds that can be used.
As a sidenote, we also updated our Google Chrome browser extension that lets you easily send webpages, photos, selected text and more to your Notifo-enabled devices. Handy for consuming content on the go. It uses some new-fangled Chrome APIs and as such only works with Chrome 6.0+ (Dev version as of this moment).
During the development of this iPhone app update and website overhaul we implemented several internal features that we have been using. Our next step is to clean them up and introduce them into our public API for others to enjoy. This includes user messaging and bot documentation, small tweaks like being able to see if a subscription request is pending, and a few larger features that aren't quite ready for the limelight.