AMSTERDAM, Holland – Instant messaging application eBuddy has recently hit two million downloads on OviStore after just four months. Its popularity is ramping fast – the second million took a third as long as the first. Conversations caught up with the company’s CEO Jan-Joost Rueb – JJ, for short – to try to find out what makes the app so popular.
Nokia Conversations: A mobile phone already gives you lots of ways to communicate. Why do people want IM as well?
JJ: It’s just another way to communicate and has specific advantages for certain types of messaging. If I want to tell my wife that I’m going to be late for dinner, then probably SMS is what I’ll use. However, if I want a dialogue – ‘What shall we have for dinner?’ – then IM can be the best tool. It’s also a lot simpler – you don’t have to go through folders and backwards and forwards to have a conversation. It’s all there on the screen.
There can also be cost advantages. A lot of people get their SMS in bundles now, but if you’re still paying per-message, then it can be a lot cheaper.
NC: What has made eBuddy so successful?
JJ: A big advantage is that eBuddy works on almost every phone. For Nokia alone, it works on 900 devices. The best experience is through the OviStore app, but if your phone doesn’t support that, then there’s a Java version. There’s even an XHTML version for the few phones that don’t work with the Java app.
We think that an important reason eBuddy has been successful is because it’s very clearly focused on instant messaging. So it’s very clear for the user what the application is for and how to use it. We don’t try to also do games or voice-over-IP, for example, which can make apps over-complicated.
We’re also lucky in that we have a large installed base of users who use the web version of eBuddy. When they get a new mobile phone, they normally find that they’re able to use their existing web account on their phone.
NC: This is a free app. How do you make any money?
JJ: We have adverts alongside the chat in many versions of the application. With 30 million unique users a month, that provides a profitable model. Also, in some cases, we have deals with manufacturers and operators to bundle the app.
NC: You currently host internet messaging from users of MSN, Facebook and so forth. Any plans to create your own community?
JJ: We wouldn’t rule that out. We are encouraging users to get their own eBuddy ID, which enables additional functionality in the client, such as being logged in to different accounts simultaneously. That also allows us to speak to those customers individually, as our own customers.
NC: You don’t do Twitter, which seems to get a lot of attention. Any plans to add that?
JJ: Twitter is a lot smaller than any of the communities that we do currently support, even though it gets a lot attention in the media. We will add it in the future, but our current priorities are about improving the experience for our existing users.
NC: So tell us more about that. What’s in the pipeline for Nokia users in particular, but also the service as a whole?
JJ: We’re developing nicer clients for the better phones, adding touchscreen interactions, for example. In the wider service, we’re adding a lifestream feature that will let you look at your buddy’s histories, aggregating material from different sources.
Thanks for your time, JJ. Do you use an IM client for your mobile phone. If so, what do you use it for? And how can this whole class of applications be improved?