Convore, Rebooting IRC, Brings Group Chat Into the Social Media Era

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sharing links, photos, songs, and other media with small networks of friends, not for broadcasting short messages to hundreds or thousands of followers. But the confusion, plus the recession, made it hard for Pownce to raise money when the time came for a Series A round in 2009, Culver says. The startup was instead acquired by blogging company Six Apart, which immediately shut it down.

Inside Six Apart, Culver went on to help with a product called TypePad Motion, a Pownce-like system used by celebrities to communicate with their fans. For fun, she also wrote a Web-based IRC client that made it easier for people to find and join IRC channels. “It actually did fairly well, and people really liked it—so much so that we got banned from the IRC server that we were connected to and ended up having to shut it off,” Culver says. She says that experience, and the positive reception for the tool even among people who had never used IRC before, was enough to convince her that the concept had legs.

Culver soon left Six Apart (before its acquisition by Say Media) and did some contract software development work such as building an iPhone app for Plancast, the San Francisco-based social calendaring startup. Last fall, just a few weeks before applications were due for the winter term at Y Combinator, she joined with Eric Florenzano and Eric Maguire, who’d worked together at San Francisco-based game developer Mochi Media, to build an IRC-like system that the trio called Convore. (The name is a cross between “conversation” and “carnivore”; the company logo is a stylized Tyrannosaurus rex in profile.)

The first version of Convore offered only private groups. “We wanted a place where you could say anything and it wouldn’t be held against you publicly,” says Culver. “You wouldn’t have to censor yourself, like you do on your blog or on Twitter.” (Or on IRC, for that matter.) Privacy still one of the service’s main selling points; Culver says the vast majority of message traffic on Convore takes place in the private groups.

Another difference between Convore and IRC: Convore has a sense of history. Conversations are archived for permanent access by all group members. “We wanted to make sure that if you didn’t happen to be connected, when you came back, you could see what you were missing out on,” says Florenzano. “On IRC, people install workarounds to be somewhat present when they are not actually there, but we wanted that to be built in.”

One final difference: Convore users have persistent identities; if they want, they can log in using their Facebook or Twitter credentials. “On IRC or AIM, I have barely any way to find out who you are or what your deal is,” says Culver. “We wanted a way to have a consistent identity and all these things that social sites provide.”

To a first-time user visiting Convore’s public groups, the service may seem a lot like the group Q&A site Quora, if only because a lot of the public posts seem to be pleas for advice or information. But Convore users—whom I surveyed by posting a question there—say the difference is that … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • Miko Linger

    Loved the article, i also liked the “10 Old Tech Ideas That Are New Again”

    Indeed chats in general are coming back.
    Not only as IRC oriented chats, but in many services that let one embed chats at their websites. Like rumbletalk.com , chatroll.com, parachat.com, “meebo me” and more.

    in addition there are tons of chats in the mobile industry…..that really make chats a way of leaving.

    One more thing, i loved the convore chat and i saw an interview with Leha, very impressive young lady !!!