Multi-Social Media Client Crowy Refreshes UI, Adds Facebook & LinkedIn Support

Mutli-social media client Crowy relaunched with a brand-new user interface and web site today. The new design looks refined and much improved, with a new logo and color scheme.

Crowy is a browser client that supports multiple social media services including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, youRoom, Yammer, and Cybozu Live.

Crowy's New Home Page
Crowy Interface, before Refresh

“It was just a test project”

The lead developer Atsuhiko Kimra gave a presentation at PAX Coworking, a coworking space in Kyodo, Tokyo, explaining the changes and its growth process.

Kimura said Crowy came out as a practice project for a group of engineers, which consists of three developers. They chose a social media client as the subject because he loved the Hootsuite UI but wanted to integrate Yammer and youRoom into the same service. The development started in Summer 2010.

Crowy developer Atsuhiko Kimura, giving a demo

Collaboration Out of Coworking Space

Today’s big refresh happened because of a fortunate encounter this August. Another developer, Yuya Yoshida met designer Yutaka Fujiki at Open Source Cafe Shimokitazawa and became connected. They started collaborating on Crowy together from August, also involving other coworking place participants as beta testers and source of feedback.

Crowy designer Yutaka Fujiki & developer Atsuhiko Kimura

They plan to add full multilingual support soon, although most part of the service is already translated into English, Cantonese and Spanish. They are also fast at incorporating user feedback, improving the service day by day.

Crowy “Black Party” on October 24th

Also coming up is a party to celebrate the refresh on Moday, October 24th. The dress code for Crowy “Black Party” is all-black, and the black-colored food will be served (“Crowy” sounds almost like “black” in Japanese). RSVP for the event on Facebook and catch the latest features and their collaboration story.

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Livedoor, Softbank, Fon to Offer Free Wi-Fi after the Quake

On March 12th, some Wi-Fi providers in Japan started offering free connection after the devastating earthquake that hit northeast Japan on Friday afternoon.

Sofbank Mobile

Sofbank Mobile announced that they are completely opening up their public wireless LAN service “Softbank Wi-Fi Spot” for free. The connection is available for anyone who is in the service area, not limited to current Softbank customers. Softbank Wi-Fi Spot provides 54Mbps connectivity in select public locations such as restaurants, cafes, hotels and shops. Look for the WiFi Available sticker or BB Mobile Point sticker on storefronts.

To use, select “FON” network on any wireless LAN supported devices in one of their service locations.

Livedoor Wireless

Livedoor Wireless is also offering free Wi-Fi on March 12th and 13th. You can check the coverage area with their map.

The SSID for the open network is “free-online-ld” (no password required).
They also provide optional login IDs (01@free@lw / 03@free@lw / 03@free@lw) and password (livedoor) in case authentication is required by the device.

FON Japan

FON Japan also announced their effort to offer their network for free to support those who affected by the earthquake and their friends and families.

FON_FREE_INTERNET and other FON spots are entirely free until March 13th. For updates and possible extension of the dates, follow @fonjapan Twitter account.

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Buy Your Twitter Friend a Beer With Micro-gifting Service giftee

Have you ever wanted to buy your Twitter friend a drink as a way of saying “Thanks” or “Cheer up”? You could have opted for an Amazon or iTunes e-giftcard if you knew their email address – but that kind of digital money is just not the same as a fuzzy or warm drink that they can enjoy in real life. Micro-gifting service giftee makes it easier to show your online friends appreciation or encouragement, well, in this case, if you know their Twitter ID (Twitter DM/email options are planned for the future enhancement).

You need 3 things: the Twitter ID of the person you want to send the gift to, a few bucks for the gift you choose, and a credit card. The selection of the gifts cost around 400-1000 yen (5-12 USD) and are from cozy-looking cafes and bars. Take your pick from nicely photographed gifts such as a glass of draft beer, a cup of latte-art-adorned coffee, or a piece of cake with “Happy Birthday” message on it.

Welcome to giftee from giftee official on Vimeo.

The whole gift-giving process is pretty simple – it only takes a minute or so once you have an account and if you have your credit card at hand.

Once you purchase the gift, a tweet with your choice of custom message is automatically sent with @ reply.

The recipient can open the link on a mobile device with a web browser using her Twitter login. She then will show the code on the screen at the store to receive the gift.

What happens if your friend doesn’t care for the beer of your choice? No worries, the payments for unused gifts after 60 days will be sent to charities so both you and your friend can still feel fuzzy inside.

The talk around “social shopping” has been rather quiet lately – after all the buzz around the word and growth of Groupon service (& its clones) in 2010. Now, giftee may be able to contribute to another aspect of “social shopping” by nurturing new online purchase needs for non-virtual objects with its easy and simple service to send them to your friend.

See Also:

TechCrunch Japan [J], CNET Japan [J], greenz.jp [J]

YouRoom, Gemediar & Cacoo Demos at AntennaAsia Fukuoka

On Thursday night, AntennaAsia kicked off a 5-day tech event marathon in Fukuoka, followed by Energy Informatic and AIP Cloud 3DAYS this weekend. AntennaAsia vol. 1 showcased two Fukuoka startups and one from Tokyo.

YouRoom

First up, Yoshihito Kuranuki (@kuranuki) from SonicGarden demoed YouRoom, a discussion/communication tool aimed for project teams and private groups. YouRoom’s interface is modeled after Twitter. Timeline view stacked with short messages just like tweets helps flat real-time communication, unlike long-winded mailing list messages.

YouRoom is available as a free service for now. Kuranuki said that they are planning to add an enterprise account option, which provides more features for business use such as an official audit log report.

Gemediar

Kota Sakoda (@cohtan) from Pocketbox team presented Gemediar. Gemediar is a B2B video transcoding platform for sharing videos among various mobile carriers / devices.

Gemediar is best suited for sending videos to someone who is unable to view it in the same format because of cross-carrier incompatibility. Sakoda said they hope to completely eliminate the hurdles and confusion around sharing videos, especially among non-techie users. By offering a stable and affordable video engine, Gemediar helps other startups and small teams host videos without running into headaches associated with different formats.

Current pricing starts at ¥9,800/month with 5GB file storage. According to Sakoda, this translates to 15-50GB net space in comparison to other services with multi-carrier support, thanks to their optimization technology.

Cacoo

Toshiki Agata (@agata) from Nulab wrapped up the demo sessions by announcing the brand-new paid upgrade for Cacoo, their real-time collaborative drawing tool (for more info on the product itself and its past development, check out previous coverage on Asiajin). He said Cacoo has been steadily gaining both domestic and international users since its beta launch in November 2009. Currently 60% of Cacoo users are using the service outside of Japan. The United States and France are the top countries accessing Cacco besides Japan.

Distribution of Cacoo's user location (green = Japan / blue = others)

To grow Cacco into a profitable service, they are planning to aggressively expand their general userbase. The immediate action plan is to expose Cacoo to an existing large pool of users; they will be developing extensions for Google Apps Marketplace, Chrome Web Store, and a Facebook App. Agata added that he’d be happy to share their experiences and tips with startups looking for mentors in expanding their service beyond Japanese users.

AntennaAsia organizers said they modeled this event after SFNewTech/SVNewTech meetups. They want to continue this series of events to foster a similar community in Fukuoka by providing a place where startups can share their ideas and progress. Study meetups (Benkyokai) has became quite common in various local tech communities around Japan – there is a potential for this kind of demo/networking events to spread widely and connect startups, users, business owners, and investors.