AppChat Week 1: Freak Outs, Flaming Servers and 6 Releases

Well that was a crazy week.

Two weeks ago we had an idea for an app that adds a chat room to every app you have installed on your phone. We called it AppChat and it sounded like a fun experiment, and a nice little break from our long term launcher project Flow Home. We managed to get a rough version finished in under a week, then last Thursday posted it to the XDA app forum. We called it an “alpha” and meant it. There was tons of stuff missing and plenty of bugs, but it worked! And then… not much happened. We got a comment or two, probably 2 whole downloads, and it quickly slipped off the front page of posts. Maybe the whole thing was just a dumb idea.

Friday morning I am walking to the office, and my phone buzzes to let me know there are 12 new messages in AppChat. Cool! At least someone is using it. Then it buzzes again — 25 new messages, then 58, then over a hundred. I rush to the office to see what’s going on. Turns out someone has posted it to /r/Android and we almost immediately went to the top. That’s when sh*t went crazy:

What 2 days on top of /r/Android looks like in daily active users.

We got over 3,000 upvotes, almost 400 comments and stayed at the top of the page for almost two full days. To say we weren’t prepared would be an understatement. The server immediately started having problems, and every flaw in the message handling code suddenly became glaringly obvious. We quickly added another server and that seemed to hold off the worst of the problems (for the curious, we are running the server on Heroku, written in Java). I had to make changes to the servers on my phone at least once on the weekend, and we found a couple limitations in our database the hard way.

However, the things people started posting were both interesting and hilarious. In Spotify chat people were recommending albums, in Kindle chat they were suggesting books, and in calculator chat they were spelling the word BOOBIES in every possible way. Somebody started an infinitely recursive screenshot in the AppChat chat (yes there’s an app chat for app chat and it has infinite screenshots of app chat), the whole thing was awesome.

A few of the screenshots posted to various chats.

Here’s a few more interesting stats from week 1:

  • Screenshots uploaded: 6,227
  • Number of chat rooms: 79,267
  • Number of messages: 71, 597

The feedback so far has been awesome, people see some real potential and so do we. You also made it pretty obvious that the app wasn’t quite good enough for regular usage, so we’ve been going flat out trying to improve it based on people’s requests. We’ve done 6 releases in the past 7 days, and here is what changed:

  • Realtime user counts and presence for chat rooms
  • Most liked messages per chat room
  • Star your favorite rooms
  • Claim your username and login system (who writes a login system after they launch an app?)
  • Chat room search
  • Lollipop only swipe-in screenshot button
  • Notification preferences
  • Like, flag, delete messages. Clickable links in messages.
  • Emoji support

And we’re still going. We have a bunch of stuff planned like friend lists, chat rooms for different phone manufacturers, and a bunch of improvements to the core chat experience. We’re really excited to see if we can make something real out of this crazy experiment.

We would love to hear your ideas, feel free to post it to /r/appchat or XDA and we’ll add it to the list. Thanks to everyone for making this a crazy/tiring/exciting week!