Yale students can already choose among AIM, Yahoo! Messenger and Gmail chat for instant messaging. But two SOM students hope to win converts to a new service designed to take group communication beyond the chat room.
Touradj Barman SOM ’07 and Jason Mallet SOM ’07 plan to launch GoGroups, a new instant messaging and social networking tool, this summer. Drawing inspiration from Facebook and conventional IM programs, the creators hope to dispense with primitive chat rooms and make group conversations and collaboration easier.
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“What we’ve done is built a framework that’s good for individual messaging as well as group instant messaging,” Barman said.
While he was reluctant to reveal all of GoGroups’s features to protect its business model, Barman said the software’s main innovation is that it enables users to engage easily in conversations with different groups of users. GoGroups will include simple one-on-one instant messaging, Barman said, but it will also be possible to form clusters of users, and people will be able to transmit multimedia easily among themselves.
GoGroups will be supported by advertising revenue, although a “premium” package of software might be offered in the future, Barman said.
Mallet said the “intuitive” interface will allow users to sort conversations by topic instead of laboriously sifting through separate windows. GoGroups will always remain on a user’s desktop screen for easy connectivity to conversations, he said. Mallet said the software will include a home screen that contains tabs of all of the users’ groups, general account information and a multimedia sharing section.
Barman said he thought of GoGroups slightly over a year ago when he was contemplating the lack of a program to facilitate group communication. Over dinner, he shared the concept with Mallet, whom he had met in a class on leadership at SOM, and Mallet signed onto the project shortly after.
“Chat rooms are a very disorganized solution [to group communication], and so I just got to thinking, ‘Hey, what if you have some cool instant messenger just for groups?’” Barman said.
Mallet said a large donation from an executive at VeriSign, Inc. — a major operator of network infrastructure — has covered the cost of trying to patent the software, which can cost more than $10,000 for a single patent. GoGroups’s patent application is currently under review.
The SOM administration has been extremely supportive of the venture, Barman said.
“There’s more a push at SOM to cultivate entrepreneurship, and I think we’re part of a result of that,” he said.
GoGroups’s target market will be college students, said Mallet, who hopes that Yale can serve as a testing ground for the new software once it is released. In addition, they are searching for a Yale undergraduate to help with programming, he said.
“We want this to be a successful Yale venture,” he said.
But many Yale students say they would be unlikely to switch to a new instant messaging system unless it quickly became popular. Emily Schofield ’09 said that while the idea sounded intriguing, she would wait to see its level of popularity before joining it.
“It’s one of the things where I would use it if it hit a critical mass and my friends were on it, but I don’t think I would be one of the first people to switch over,” she said.