This is a quick update for those of you that are not part of the Alpha Tester community on FrostWire for Android.
Don’t you think your smartphone is the most social device you own?
It was about time we could use our phones for more than talking, texting, emailing, micro-blogging, web-browsing and media creation/consumption. Your phone probably has a lot of stuff that you’ve been putting on it which could well be shared with others but never makes it out since it’s not very easy to do so.
We can’t think of any parent who has a smartphone with a high resolution camera who hasn’t taken hundreds of pictures and videos of her/his kids and doesn’t want to share with family and friends, same goes for all the party people every night, never uploading or sending hundreds of pictures to friends who would love to keep those fun memories for themselves… so many pictures and videos lost when they get a new phone or if they happen to reformat their phone’s memory. Those pictures you see on Facebook or Flickr, that’s but a fraction of all the pictures sitting on phones and cameras out there, it’ll only get worse as more and more people upgrade their cheap “dumb-phones” to smartphones.
We have this device which is probably the best representation of our real “social profile”, initially created to interact in one of the most intimate forms (voice) with our “social graph”, a device that is conveniently with us at all times, for some almost like an extension of ourselves. For some mysterious reason we can’t understand, smart-phones are crippled with inconvenience when it comes to sharing their contents with others: Slow transmission speeds (bluetooth and it’s device pairing), bad or non-existent file management tools (iPhone or Android phones don’t come with a file manager when it’s a fact your phone stores plenty of files, not everybody is dumb to understand a file manager, right?), bandwidth limitations (3g), distance limitations (bluetooth and it’s device pairing), file size limits (try attaching large files on emails), you name it, it’s almost like they don’t want you to use your phone to share files. We feel this is a great contradiction: “the most social ever device can’t easily share files“.
So we couldn’t just sit and wait for others to solve this problem and we set out to build the best file sharing app we could ever think off, An app specifically meant to run on Smart-phones, that if adopted by enough people it would instantly create one of the largest, real-time ad-hoc social networks, created by you and the people near you, no central entity peering over what you do, by the people, for the people.
No need to build profiles or sign up to anything, just open the application, connect and you’re part of a “social network” that starts with you and the files that represent who you are. If you want to put it in the hyped terms of the social media slang, it’s a real time social network where members get together for one common interest, their files.
There’s no central entity looking over your shoulder, we think human interaction is meant to occur from people to people. When you go to a cafe and start a conversation with someone you don’t tell the “barista” to record and relay all your words to a person, no intermediaries should be necessary for two people to share information.
We think our phones were initially built for that one on one communication, and now that they’re more than phones it’s about time they help some of us have social super-powers. With the chat features we believe that not only it will be a social-file-sharing app, but it’ll be a great way to break the ice if you find yourself in a place full of strangers (given the software will have mass adoption of course).
DOWN TO EARTH NOTE & PREDICTION: The social aspects of FrostWire for Android will only be truly appreciated once it’s adopted by a critical mass. In the surface it’ll feel just like a cool file sharing app, but it only takes a little imagination to think how it could be a very powerful social networking tool if over half of your city had a smartphone running it (then multiply by every city in the world). We’ll see.
Philosophical Vision aside, what did we do?
We can now say we have built the first mobile-p2p-file-sharing application in the world (please correct us otherwise if you’re already sharing files with lots of other phones, we also want to learn from competition).
Thanks to the Alpha Tester community feedback and to some inspiring technological events that occurred during the development of the application we decided to extend the sharing possibilities outside of the Local Wi-Fi network (the original concept was only for local network file sharing), now FrostWire for Android can interact with other peers via the Internet using a Wi-Fi Internet enabled connection. We think you’ll have a greater chance to serendipitously meet other FrostWire users in person if they get used to launch the application everytime they’re on a Wi-Fi internet enabled network.
When we saw that Apple launched Face-Time on the iPhone 4 and we saw that they were doing it ONLY via Wi-Fi (using standard port mapping and NAT traversal tech), and people took it like Kool-Aid (as in no revolt for lack of 3G support), we thought: “hell, we are network geeks, we can do that and better blindfolded with one hand tied to our backs”. Jokes aside (all the respect to the Cupertino coders), a couple of weeks later we had all the code for port mapping and peer rendezvous, we immediately noticed how the application usage and feedback from users surged almost exponentially . The app was more useful once you could use it over longer distances while still keeping all the core design for super fast transfers on a local level.
Currently the app is doing almost everything we intended, it allows browsing files from other peers, suggesting files (from your phone or other phone) to other peer or many (via chat-room), it allows downloading files (even large ones, tested up to 1Gb files) locally and over the internet, and it now supports pure p2p search.
We are now focusing on making sure the user experience is as convenient and natural as it can be, so expect an open beta announcement in the following weeks, and an appearance on all android markets shortly after that.
More will be revealed in time. This is only the beginning of what’s in store.
For the adventurous of heart
If you don’t mind trying software that might crash (or even break your phone) you can go ahead and install the latest alpha installer. Try it at your own risk, (If you have issues, it’s expected, it’s still alpha and we’re working on it with well over 300 testers that drill us with no compassion), the app can be highly addictive, it can be quite fun to look at other people’s shared files.
Now go! don’t be a freeloader and break your phone for the sake of freedom and privacy.