This week, purple flyers stood out among the orange and black decorations around campus.
The flyers began to be posted two weeks ago in anticipation of a new mobile application coming to Yale. Designed by Ivan Fan ’14, the “Huddlr” app allows Yale students to see the location of on-campus parties and which of their friends are attending. Huddlr will be officially released tomorrow night at Spook’d, Sigma Phi Epsilon’s Halloween party at the Elevate nightclub. According to Fan, the app is the first of its kind.
“I’m all about solving real world problems and part of that is bringing people together,” he said.
Both Fan and co-founder William Zhao ’13 said they hope to eventually expand the scope of the app beyond Yale’s campus.
Students spend too much time on their phones trying to locate their friends and not enough time at the actual party, Fan said. With Huddlr, Fan and Zhao said they are focusing their attention to solve this problem with the Yale community.
The Yale-led development of Huddlr follows a pattern of increasing mobile app innovation at the University. The Yale Entrepreneurial Institute has more interest in mobile and web apps as of late, said Alena Gribskov, who is the communications & program manager at YEI and has worked with Zhao.
While Zhao conceded that the competition between social apps is stiff, he said Huddlr occupies a unique space in the market. The app combines real-time location information with the ability to connect with friends, a quality which distinguishes Huddlr from similar apps like Foursquare, Zhao said.
“I’ve seen versions of the app and they’re innovative especially in the design sense,” said computer science professor David Gelernter.
Despite heightened expectations, 15 of 24 Yale students interviewed said they would not download or use an app like Huddlr. Most expressed privacy concerns and said current forms of communication were preferable.
Liz Jones ’15 said she has no use for a Huddlr-type app because she does not go “party hopping.”
“If I want people to know where I am I just tell them,” said Joel Ong ’16.
To allay concerns about invasions of privacy, Fan made sure Huddlr users only have access to the location of students who accept friend requests. The app also includes the option to hide one’s location.
Prior to Saturday night, attendees of Spook’d can enter their emails in a raffle. The winners will be given access to the app on their phones. While Huddlr will only be initially available for this select group of people, along with a handful of SigEp brothers, Fan said the app would be released gradually to the rest of Yale shortly after October 31.
“We’re using the event as a way to get people to become aware of our product,” Zhao said. “Spook’d is one of the bigger events and its something that people can use our app for.”
Huddlr’s release to the Yale community is in many ways a trial run for the app. Students can submit feedback directly in the app’s settings, and Fan added that he expects Huddlr to have many updates in the future as glitches are fixed and improvements are made.
Zhao emphasized the importance of “iterating” — updating based on feedback — in keeping an app up to date.
The app’s current iteration, Huddlr 1.0, uses Apple devices called iBeacons that register when students arrive at any party location. Party-planners must contact the Huddlr team before their event appears on the campus map, but Zhao said he anticipates the need for this pre-approval to disappear.
“We’re ready to release; we’re excited to release,” Fan said. “We’ve spent a lot of time making sure we’ve created an architecture that can handle the stresses of scaling.”
The app’s icon is a white penguin on a purple background. When opened, the screen displays a map of Yale’s campus dotted with purple arrows, representing events. Fan and his team spent a long time working on the design of the app, Fan said. Huddlr’s original name was to be MorseMap, taken from the “Marauder’s Map” of Harry Potter. Fan noted that several student groups — including the basketball house, the hockey house and the radio house — are interested in partnering with Huddlr in the future.