The Notifu group messaging application is a thing of beauty dear people, and it’s just gone on to the short list as my web application of the year. It provides a simple way to run a group messaging service across multiple platforms. So you can now contact your friends and colleagues automatically via email, SMS, normal phone and IM just by sending off a single message.
There’s a bunch of companies out there trying to win in this group messaging business and we’ve covered a few of them, but what sets this one apart is the sheer comprehensiveness of the design. This is the first application I’ve come across, for instance, which will cope with international SMS with responses. Not only that but it’s beautifully fire and forget, which makes it a superb application for geeks and technophobes alike who need this kind of function.
It really is no-brainer easy to set up, and gloriously you can try it out for free without even registering on the site. Just click on the Try it Unregistered button and you’ll see three choices, Send New Message, View Messages and Manage Contacts. That’s it. Click on the first and you can send an instant message to anyone via their phone (via text to speech), mobile SMS, email or IM.
Pretty neat, but that’s just part of it. Because if you click on the Manage Contacts, you can set up new contacts, and – listen closely – you’ll be able to assign a series of escalating addresses for each contact, so if the first one doesn’t gather a response in 5 minutes, the system will automatically try the next distribution method and so on. Clever huh? Note that the field stays red until you’ve entered the correct format for the contact details, and the help bar at the bottom tells you why when you try to save. Lovely touch.
Setting up a group of friends, colleagues or whatever is similarly easy. Just add their names under a group name, and then set up their contact details (with or without an escalating address) by clicking on the little blue arrow next to their name and voila, you’ve got yourself a fully fledged group messaging system in minutes. Genius.
The View Messages feature is there because the application also features a sophisticated answering (response) mechanism, so you can see at a glance who has and has not replied. You can even get a snapshot of how many votes for each option there were. Great for getting quick decisions on a topic.
The application is in beta now (they’re currently fixing a couple of things relating to international responses not working) and from the FAQs it seems that there will be a free and Pro/Premium version eventually. Right now the best way to use it is to register, which means that you can save contacts and view stored response messages. Oh, and perhaps I should mention that there’s an iPhone web app version too, again a nice touch. In fact, that’s really my only criticism, why stop at an iPhone version and not just do a general mobile smartphone formatted widget? It’s not a hugely complex app, and the screen size differences between smartphones nowadays is not that great.
There’s an Open Social version of the application due shortly too, which means that it will be usable within networks like MySpace, Friendster, Plaxo, Hi5, Ning et al, and of course I’m assuming that Facebook can’t be far behind. Developers also can use a beta API set for their own needs.
So that’s it in a nutshell really. I have a pet theory that the web is slowly changing into a sort of online admin control panel, where you’ll set up preferences and receive automatic services to your choice of platform, location and time, and this application is the living embodiment of that concept. When it’s done well – and Notifu is done brilliantly – then we benefit from a really valuable timesaver. Superb!
What does it cost? Today, Notifu is 100% free (including sending SMS and voice messages to anywhere in the world); however, it is likely in the near future that we will have a Free Edition and Pro Edition and some features will require the Pro Edition (like sending SMS messages, sending voice messages, etc).