Sharing files over the internet used to be a devilish task. Finding the right application, storage space, or transporation method for files used to be very difficult only 5 years ago. Now with file upload sites and forums/bulletin boards to share files, sending your friend a song or posting up a funny picture has never been easier.
Posterous is going to change file sharing for the better. All you need to do is e-mail them the files you want, and you instantly get your own space on Posterous to store your files and share them with anyone. I got an interview with the site’s founder Sachin Agarwal as we went over how Posterous was developed, the future of the site, and what makes Posterous one of the most revolutionary web 2.0 applications to date.
Could you explain how Posterous actually works? What can users do on the site?
Posterous is the easiest way to publish anything online. You simply send an email to email@example.com and attach photos, video, audio, documents, anything at all. We’ll convert everything to a web friendly format, host it all, and put it online for free. Then we’ll reply with your site address. You can send us anything and we’ll make it look good. Instead of forcing users to make decisions and do work, we always do the “right thing”, so you can focus on the actual content.
Once you post to us, we’ll also update your Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and many other services that you may use. The idea here is that many of us use these other services, they are great. We have communities there, friends and family. So we want those services updated whenever we post. But ultimately, everyone should have their own personal place on the web. And that’s Posterous.
How did you come up with such a unique and innovative idea for a web application
There are two main reasons why we decided to build Posterous, and how it stands apart from other web applications. First of all, of all the blogging platforms out there, none of them *focus* on rich media. All the first generation tools focus on long form text posts, which is why most people start a blog and they never update it. People don’t want to “blog” anymore, they just want to share rich media with their friends and family. So we decided to focus on rich media.
Second, I’ve never liked the movement to web applications, built just for the sake of being on the web. Some stuff is better on the web. E-commerce and collaboration tools make sense on the web. Having a website where people go to see your photos and blog makes sense. But building all new publishing/uploading tools on the web doesn’t make sense to me. I wanted to integrate into the tools I already use. By focusing on email, I’m “built in” on the iPhone. I’m built in iPhoto. Why would I want to invent a totally new workflow, when so many people already understand email, already spend so much time in email, and email handles rich media attachments perfectly?
Not requiring users to sign up for an account is something you don’t see on every social networking site today. What made you decide to do this?
One of the great things about focusing on email is we can identify you based on your email address, so we don’t need you to sign up for an account. We don’t want users to have to jump through a bunch of hoops: sign up, confirm email address, remember a password, just to use our service. It’s a lot simpler if a person can email us a photo and become a user.
But also, our goal at Posterous is to make web publishing feel like magic. We always say, “send us anything, we’ll make it look good.” Some people don’t understand the power of what we’ve built or why it’s better than the other tools out there. But once they send an email and see the result, they have the “aha” moment. And that’s when they get hooked. So more than a fancy homepage or a long feature list, it’s just trying our service that shows users what we’re about.
Account free posting has been particularly great for group sites. I’ve set up a site for my family, and all my family members can simply email posts to that site and they don’t need an account. It just acts like an email list. Especially when you’re hitting older, a less tech savvy audience, this is very important. We have people publishing now who never even thought they could before.
How do you combat people trying to sign up for spam accounts or e-mailing you viruses?
We have a lot of tech in place at various levels to combat spam and abuse. We run normal spam detection software on incoming email, but also examine sites being created and look for suspicious behavior. It
really hasn’t been a problem.
How many people currently work for Posterous?
Garry and I started Posterous just over a year ago. And we recently added 2 more amazing guys to the team. So we’re now a company of 4 engineers, and we’re finally getting offices for the first time. It’s very exciting times at Posterous.
I have to compliment you on the logo, the sticky note idea is very creative. Where did you come up with the logo and site name?
Garry does our visual design and he takes all the credit on the name and logo. Again, being slightly anti-web 2.0, I didn’t like the idea of a meaningless name, or a name missing vowels. When “Posterous” was thrown around, it was an instant hit. First of all, it has the word “post” in it. But also, Posterous is the preposterously easy way to publish anything online (which is how I pronounce “Posterous”). So a name that’s part of a real word and has real meaning… you can’t beat that.
Can you share any memorable tales or stories from when you were first creating, developing, or launching Posterous?
It’s been a wild year since we started Posterous. We started last summer as part of Y Combinator. Garry and I were actually sharing a single room in a friend’s apartment in Boston. Bunk beds, 2 desks, and an AC in one room. It was intense, but incredibly productive. I’ll never forget the day we launched on TechCrunch. It caught us by surprise, I was in New York and Garry was on a beach in Hawaii. And after the summer was over, we raised an investment round. Meeting VCs from coast to coast was really exciting. And we’re very fortunate to have assembled an incredible group of 10 angels who fund and advise us.
What are some of your favorite profiles on Posterous? Along with that, what are some of the strangest things users have sent you?
Rainn Wilson is one of my favorite Posterous users. He always posts great photos with other celebrities, or from the set of The Office.
What is your favorite web 2.0 application and why?
I really love Google Reader. It’s not a very popular application, especially given it’s from Google and usually anything they release is drooled over. And it’s not very sexy. But wow, it’s such a smart application.
First of all, it’s an app that deserves to be on the web. I’m reading RSS feeds, of websites, so clearly I should be doing this in my browser. The attention to detail is incredible. Keyboard shortcuts, smart pagination, infinite scrolling. When you use Google Reader, it will often surprise you by doing something smarter than what you expected. Apple products do that a lot, but you don’t see it elsewhere on the web.
RSS is a very techy thing, most people have no idea what it is or why they should use it. But Google Reader is at least a step in the right direction, to get people reading more online, and doing it in a smart way.
Where do you see Posterous growing to in the near future? Do you have any plans or new features you could share?
We want to get millions of people publishing online who have never published before. We’re really expanding into family websites, education blogs, and personal photo sites.
There’s some really exciting stuff coming out soon. We’ll be launching full theming and customization of sites, so you’ll be able to make your site look like you’re own. We’re also releasing an iPhone app that will make it easier than ever to publish to your Posterous.
If you had any advice for someone creating their own web 2.0 application, what would it be and why?
My first piece of advice would be to build something for yourself. There can be no stronger passion than when you are building a product that you personally want, a problem you personally need solved. For Garry and me, that was Posterous. We’re bloggers, we’re photographers, and we were fed up with the tools out there. Every feature I write, every day I work on Posterous, I’m delighting my users, but I’m also building something I personally care deeply about.
Second, think different. Yes, like Apple. I’ve been an Apple fanboy my whole life, and I worked there for six years before starting Posterous. The Apple mindset is ingrained in me. Build something simple and beautiful. Make the best product, with the highest quality. Don’t play the Dell game.
Posterous focuses on email, which wouldn’t have been most people’s first choice for a web publishing platform. But it doesn’t matter what most people would do, you should make the right decisions. If you put the iPhone on a product matrix against the blackberry, the iPhone loses. But it doesn’t matter that the iPhone doesn’t have a keyboard, or removable battery, or a list of 20 other mediocre features. It wins because it’s polished, thought out, and works very well.