This week we are pleased to share with you FotoJelly – A photo sharing app for Windows Phone. This discussion and interview will be a two-part series with the team behind FotoJelly, who chose to try untested waters by basing the future of their startup on the young Windows Phone platform. This unique app has deep integration with social networks that seems to set it apart from the competition, and we feel that the FotoJelly team can provide our readers with nuggets of wisdom and insight for developing apps on Microsoft platforms.
The first part in the series will focus on the the idea behind FotoJelly, the app and it’s development, while the second part in the series will focus on the team, startup, directions and choices made during development and since release. FotoJelly’s founder Christopher Ross and his team were gracious enough to provide a thorough and frank discussion about their entire experience with the Windows Phone platform and community, and for that we’d like to thank them. Let’s get started with part one below.
Can you sum up your Windows Phone app, FotoJelly for us?
FotoJelly is a photo sharing app for Windows Phone that solves the problem of creating and sharing albums amongst family, friends and any group you engage in activities with. It does this by building those albums using social networks, calendars, and event services you already know and trust.
What is your favorite feature or aspect of FotoJelly?
Without question we’re especially proud of the Facebook Event integration. No other photo sharing service available right now will create an album exclusive to the event invitees, limit the uploading of photos to coinciding with the event’s date and time, and then upload everyone’s pictures to the Event Page with one click! We’re proud that this one feature makes everyone that sees it smile and marvel at its uniqueness.
Do you see FotoJelly as just an app, or is it more than that?
We don’t think the world needs another social media network, and we felt if we were going to do an app it was important to build a robust and scalable platform that would support the developer community and the needs of event hosts, brand marketers, etc. Building apps allows us to leverage that platform ourselves and better understand the importance of every decision we make with our infrastructure. There’s no “Fail Whale” in our future, if we can help it.
What are your overall goals with FotoJelly?
We want to be a Top 10 app for both the Windows Phone and the Windows App store. We’d like to have the definitive platform for aggregating contextual media through our integration and partnerships with social networks and event services. Were we to talk “exit strategy,” it would be a situation wherein we’ve demonstrated the monetization potential of our platform and the value of our team to an organization in the media, social network, or advertising markets.
How does FotoJelly differentiate itself from the crowded photo sharing market?
Without a doubt, it’s the context we build into the photo sharing experience. We think hashtags are lightning rods for abuse, and most apps are really photo streaming with no real sense of personal or group privacy. Our goal is to meet the needs of the 80% of consumers for whom privacy and simplicity go hand-in-hand, while still supporting the social mavens who want to express themselves more publicly.
Have any users surprised you with how they’ve used the app?
The biggest surprise has been how receptive users have been to the Facebook Events integration. We started with the ability to create events within FotoJelly itself but quickly realized we could do the same within Facebook. Secondary has been the emphasis on non-public albums – our users really appreciate being able to easily share photos with their friends and groups.
Do you have any upcoming major improvements that we can look forward to?
Yes. We are knee-deep in updating our UI to “Modern Windows,” which will be followed by a Windows Phone 8-specific version that will allow us to do some really neat things. And, while we don’t have a website on the drawing board, we will be offering a jQuery plugin and SharePoint web part for sharing albums on the web.
Are there plans for other platforms?
Absolutely. Being a small team that is currently bootstrapped we are somewhat limited to how many things we can do with quality. We think a Windows 8 “companion” app makes sense, and would allow us to leverage the work we’ve already done. After that, we’ll look at both iOS and Android and make a decision largely based on what our users tell us would best fit with how they want to share the FotoJelly experience.
What sort of back end technologies are you working with?
We are 100% Windows Azure! Our database uses Azure SQL, our web site and services use Azure Virtual Machines. Soon we will migrate all media to Azure Blob coupled with Azure CDN to improve scalability and performance.
Are you happy with the back end technology you’ve chosen?
Couldn’t be happier. Our familiarity with Microsoft technologies really made it easy to jump right in with both feet. Frankly, we never gave any other platform serious consideration because we our background is .NET and we wanted to think about long term reliability and scaling. Also, being part of the Microsoft BizSpark program gives us quite a bit of technical resources as well as runway in terms of licensing costs.
What languages are the app written in?
We use XAML and C#.
And finally, where did the name FotoJelly come from?
We wanted “Kodak” but the name was too expensive, and really has a lot of baggage. Seriously, we wanted a name that was whimsical yet one people could easy to visualize what it represents: We bring photos together.
Stay tuned tomorrow where we’ll continue this in depth interview with more questions for the FotoJelly team. In the mean time you may visit the official FotoJelly website for more details or give them a follow on Twitter or a like on Facebook. If you’d like to have your app featured like FotoJelly, please be sure to see our App Submission Forum for more details.