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Show HN: Airgram - Send iOS/Android notifications, without building an app (airgramapp.com)
121 points by navneetloiwal on Mar 9, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 54 comments

Ok, so having tried the app — I won't actually use it until there is a "quiet hours" setting. Notifo got that perfectly right: there are certain hours where I do not want to be interrupted by notification sounds from the service (but I might want to keep other sounds on).

Yes, absolutely. Quiet hours will show up in a day!

I like the idea of unified notifications, but ultimately you have the chicken-egg problem, and for that you need to find an entry point. I'm working on the same problem and whoever solves it, it will create some great value. Can't wait until notifications get detached from email.

excuse me, but what kind of chicken-egg does he have??IF someone needs notification pushed to their phone, they can use his simple web/app. There is no chicken/egg here...

users are not gonna download the app unless many services are using his api, and not many services are gonna use his api unless there is a big user base ... sounds like a prime example of chicken and egg

The way I see it is that non-mobile application owners can recommend their customers to install this app, rather than create and publish a new one just to listen for notifications.

That's why I don't see the chicken-egg problem.

And I wouldn't install another app to receive a third-party implementation of push notifications.

If I install any app, I do not expect to have to download dependencies to make it function fully. To that end, this solution is useless.

My outlook is simple: there are native implementations of push notifications on mobile devices. It may cost time and money to set them up, but please spend some time implementing them.

This is not as easy as it sounds (speaking from experience). The chicken-egg problem is huge in this type of service.

exactly! pretty much everyone in "too expensive/too complicate/we don't want this know" wagon that still want to have some sort of presence on the mobile devices could still have it without any investment other than redirect to his site.

This approach is exactly the opposite of what users want on mobile devices.

Yup. I wonder if some sort of pledge system would work. Get users add themselves to the "I am interested" list and get publishers commit to integrating with the service once the list hits N users.

I don't see why you're being downvoted. I failed to see what the chicken/egg problem was as well, it was not obvious to me.

Maybe asking politely for clarification would be better than just denying whatever the parent said, but still...

To the guys who responded to this explaining the problem: Thank you!

Push notifications are a great way to consume time-sensitive information, like price/airfare, sports, stocks, app reviews, etc. Airgram makes it dead-simple to deliver these alerts without having to build your own app, so that you can focus on building interesting services.

Give it a spin! http://www.airgramapp.com

"I think notifications will become the primary way that we consume on the mobile device and may be the reason we move away from downloadable software and back to web based software on our mobile devices." - Fred Wilson (http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2011/03/mobile-notifications.html)

Congrats on the app, it looks nice.

I launched Pushover (https://pushover.net/) this week, which looks to be pretty much the same exact product as yours: an HTTP API to push messages to an iOS and Android client.

I built it over the past 4 weeks to replace my use of Notifo, which shut down last year. There are a few other apps already available, like Prowl, Boxcar, and NotifyMyAndroid, but none were cross-platform, so I built Pushover.

I am charging for my app as a way to pay for the server costs, as I'm not sure how else these types of apps can make money and stay around. Notifo had a lot of users but their apps were free and I don't know if they even had any paying content providers pushing large amounts of messages. How do you plan to make money with yours?

there, I like your design better, since I am comparing to Airgram right now: immediately I can see how it looks on the mobile device screen because you provide an image, AND I see the code in different languages, which is easy for my eyes to match to languages I am writing in. So, if I would need this kind of functionality today, I would go with yours.

So did Notifo actually shut down or not? I mean, it still works for me, and the web page is up. I offered many times to pay for the service.

It's still running, but I'm not working on it, so it's kind of in zombie mode. There are some plans afoot, but I can't talk about them yet... however, you should assume it will go away. I will try to give 30 days notice if/when the plug is ultimately pulled.

Thanks! It's refreshing to have such an open conversation and you deserve high praise for it. I can now look for an alternative.

As to Airgram, I'm worried because I don't see where they charge money. Pushover looks much more reasonable for me. I became wary of "free" — what "free" usually means is that eventually I am either a) bombarded with ads, b) the service disappears because there is no money or c) somebody acquires the startup because of their stellar subscriber growth (remember "free"?). In all cases I am left out and have to re-invest my time into looking for an alternative.

I also noticed over the years that the most stable and trouble-free services are those which I regularly pay for. I'm quite happy with SmugMug and Squarespace for example, even though there are free alternatives in each case.

Funny how this perspective is different from what you hear if you are a startup founder: as a founder, you are supposed to "build something people want", and the rest is supposed to sort itself out. But if you do build something people want, but never charge for it, you end up disappointing those people sooner or later...

jazzychad, thanks again for the frank statements and giving us the time to find another solution!

I was in the process of building essentially the same app as yours, for the same reasons :) After seeing yours (which I think looks great) I have dropped dev on mine (see: http://redd.it/r47p9) and will probably use your app to hook up some notifications to some other apps of mine.

Anyway good luck with pushover :)

Neat app you have, there. We are not planning to charge for the apps, but keep a look out for premium features on Airgram.

Huh, very nice. I balked at the non-free app a bit, but hey, if it'll help keep the service alive, I'm all for it. I don't have a pressing need for it currently, but if it gets a bit more mature I will definitely buy the app and use it for the things I use Notifo for now.

Charging for the app will work for the DIY hacker types, but it'll be hard for other services to convince their users to purchase your app.

Your app icon looks like Pinterest's, but otherwise it looks great, will be trying it out in a jiffy.

Bug report: I created my own service (couldn't update the image because I can't be bothered to resize an image to 84x84 myself, can't you do that?), and subscribed myself to it. I then tested unsubscribing myself from within the app, but now it appears that I cannot re-subscribe myself (even though the API returns 'ok'). It looks like I can't create more than one service, so I've just screwed myself.

Also, please allow a way to delete notifications in the app. I guarantee you that will be one of the most requested features :)

Thanks for all the great feedback. We'll get right on it.

This what Notifo was trying to do but ran into quite a few challenges with adoption. You should talk with them more to see how you differentiate and solve the problem they had...

Yes, we are already talking to him to learn from his experience

I'm running it on my Android phone now. It works pretty well. I wish it uses Facebook/Google/etc. for user accounts though. The last thing I want to have to do is have another user/password. Also, what is the difference between this and Notifo (yc2010 I think)?

Can you explain how Airgram compares to (now deceased) Notifo?

We believe that mobile web apps need to become much more powerful than they are today. Developing native apps for various platforms is not easy, and frankly, unnecessary for most services. This is just our first step in bridging the gap between native apps and mobile web apps.

We are looking to provide a suite of services around notifications that not just make it easy to deliver the notifications, but provide better targeting, management and analytics.

> Developing native apps for various platforms is not easy, and frankly, unnecessary for most services [emphasis mine]

I think the fact that you've developed a native app here provides sufficient falsifying evidence for this declaration.

When looking for the optimal (for the user) solution, the decision as between a web site or a native application should be made on the basis of user requirements, and the solutions that best meet those requirements, not based on the technologies that you, personally, are comfortable with.

If you ignore an organization's existing investments in web engineering and web-focused infrastructure, webapps aren't empirically and objectively easier or cheaper. Rather, they're a mechanism by which an organization can leverage money they have already invested in building a web-centric team.

I see this as a temporary state, initially caused by the rapid adoption of the web, and will ultimately disappear as more broad, less web-centric development experience and infrastructure investment becomes the norm.

You're right, native apps will win out. Just like they did on the desktop..

How is ChromeOS doing?

What happened to Notifo? It's still up as far as I can tell.

Read more about it here http://blog.notifo.com/notifo

(I was cofounder of Notifo)

Would you consider open-sourcing the code and let the community work on it?

Paul, so where is Notifo now? The idea was excellentand it still stands.

I am really skeptical (though I'd be more than happy to see someone prove me wrong) about these "framework" apps, that doesn't actualy do anything by itself, except to provide an API of some sort for others to take advantage of. They reminds me of those obscure ActiveX plugins (3D model viewers, etc) that sites make you install. I am usually somewhat hesitant about getting them on my computer unless a see great value (eg growl), but I suppose I'll be even less willing to have these on my iPhone, as an app that sits somewhere on my home screen. My users might feel differently about this, but it certainly would be very difficult for me to explain to them what is it that they are installing and the experience could become quite confusing.

I would really like to send mobile push notifications to users of my service. (I send emails and/or SMS right now.)

Developing an iPhone & Android app - even a simple one that simply lets me alert users - is beyond my mobile dev abilities, and (I assume) would cost tens of thousands of dollars for someone to build.

Airgram might be the answer for me to let users get push notifications as an alternate alerting mechanism.

Thanks for considering Airgram! We would love to chat with you to understand how you plan on using us, and what new features you would like to see. Please e-mail me @ tommy at aircrunch dot com if you have some time to chat.

would be nice if I, as a Service Owner, could see how many subscribers the service has.

This first version is light on management features for the service owner because we wanted to get it out early to get feedback. What you suggest is absolutely on our list of things to do soon.

I like this. I do think my phone is starting to become a bit too noisy though (too many text messages that start being more like email) and I am not sure how to keep it all organized. Perhaps you guys can help.

Thanks for the feedback! We are thinking about various ways to give users a good, easy-to-understand set of controls to manage the noise. Stay tuned.

Have you figured out how could a website determine if your app is installed? It'd be cute to have a reddit style notification when people reply to your comments in a forum etc.

Just curious - what's your privacy policy? Are you storing any of the messages that get pushed through this service?

Tommy here, Airgram co-founder. Currently, we are storing these messages, but if our users have some use cases that require messages to not be persisted, we'd be happy to add this feature. Do you have a use case in mind? Would love to hear about it -- e-mail me @ tommy at aircrunch dot com

The API page seemed to break on smaller resolution pages (read: thinner).

Tommy here, Airgram co-founder. Thanks for the bug report; we are looking into it. Which browser are you using?


At SEscout.com we used notifo for user rank change notifications until they announced they would be ending the service. We have been testing boxcar for a future replacement and are pretty happy with it. Feels like a solid product.

Boxcar is great. It was very cool to be able to curl the Boxcar API and have a notification on my phone in a fraction of a second.

My startup uses Boxcar for deploy notifications, new paying customers, etc.

thanks for the mention josh. it's pretty cool that you know we exist.


i think i learned about it on HN.

i was using it for home automaton notifications a while back.

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