People often attempt to have conversations with others on Twitter, but if it goes more than a few tweets deep, it’s a mess. FriendFeed was a better haven for conversations, but those were often just based on tweets moved over to a small community — a community which is quickly fading. A new service launching in beta today, LiveFyre, is focused on reworking how we have conversations on the web.
“What doesn’t exist is a place to have intelligent, face-paced, realtime conversations,” LiveFyre CEO Jordan Kretchmer tells us. He notes that while users have been trying to do this on Twitter and other services, the conversations often lack the content needed to be cohesive. That’s why a central part of LiveFrye is content. When you find a story on the web, you can share the link in LiveFyre, thus starting a “fyre” (a conversation thread) about that topic.
Once a fyre is started, things get interesting. Any site user can join in to share their opinion on the subject. These comments come in in realtime, maintaining a flow. But one issue with that is often people will get into side conversations, and one of LiveFyre’s key features is a way to easily split those off into what are called “Breakouts.” Just as the name indicates, these are side conversations that can also be had in realtime with other members participating in the main fyre, but may want to veer off course a bit. The UI for this is intuitive as in the main fyre, there is a notice to all participants that a breakout is happening, which they can then see in a column ot the right of the main stream.
Fyres also feature live-threading to keep things in order. And when replies come in specifically to something you said (using the same @reply syntax that Twitter uses), those are highlighted to make it very clear that someone is talking to you. You will also get a notification at the top of the fyre showing you have a message directed specifically at you.
Another nice feature is that if someone shares another link within a fyre, LiveFyre will automatically detect it and put it in a “Fyre Links” area in the left side column. This way the links people are refering to are visible for all to look at at any time even as the main fyre stream keeps moving.
Taking a step back, the main area of LiveFyre is the key to discovering what to talk about on the site. The main screen consists of the latest “Breaking Fyres” at any given moment. These items, stacked on top of one another, show the headline, a thumbnail for a story, tags, and how many people are in the fyre talking about it.
A big component of the site is that everything is color-coordinated to let you know how “hot” a particular fyre is. The more red it burns, the hotter it is. “Hotness” is determined by active participation in a fyre. And actually, there is a timer on each fyre, so if the conversation dies down, eventually, that fyre will burn out and will no longer be featured prominently. It is possible to reignite fyres though if people start talking about it again.
Another key component of the site is that not everyone can start a fyre. In order to begin a conversation about something, you must have the “Fyre Starter” badge, which not everyone will have at first. The idea here is to make sure the quality of conversations remains high. And users who do things such as start high quality fyres will be rewarded at various levels with other kinds of badges.
While LiveFyre’s focus is taking the conversation outside of places like Twitter, Kretchmer acknowledges that was very much the driving force behind the site initially — to see what people were talking about on Twitter, and bringing those conversations over to LiveFyre. And while the service may be more content-centric now, it’s still very much about using Twitter and Facebook . You can sign up with your Twitter credentials to set up an account, and there is also Facebook Connect integration. Obviously, both of these services will be vital for LiveFyre spreading the word about conversations being had on their service.
Another company interested in realtime conversations, Lissn, launched at TechCrunch50 this year. But LiveFyre COO Henry Arlander believes their product is almost the opposite of that because Lissn was more about passive conversations whereas LiveFrye is very active.
So what’s the business model behind all of this? Well LiveFyre, like many startups, have lofty plans for the future (think conversations about products), but they’re actually launching with a revenue model in place as well. Alongside today’s beta launch, the company has struck a deal with MINI Cooper to sponsor the site for the first few days. After that, they have other brands lined up as well, we’re told.
That’s just a basic model, but LiveFyre promises some other interesting things that they’re not quite ready to talk about yet. Also interesting are the plans they have to work with communities that provide the content for their conversations, such as blogs, to ensure they’re not simply moving the emphasis away from those sites. But again, that’s for a later time.
For the beta launch, LiveFyre is giving 200 TechCrunch readers access to Fyre Starter badges (so you can start fyres). Simply send you email address to this email address to get your invite code.