What I'd Do With Glassboard

Glassboard is for sale. If you want to get past all the businessy corporate speak of the official blog, here’s the main nugget:

We want Glassboard to not only continue running but also to evolve and flourish. So we’re looking for a good home for Glassboard. The backend service for Glassboard runs in Azure, and it has wonderful iOS and Android clients. It took a team of talented people to create it, so we want Glassboard to go somewhere that has enough resources.

Brent Simmons has a pretty good summary of what it is and why it’s worth saving:

The problem of persistent, private, and trustworthy group sharing is still an open problem. Glassboard represents a couple years of work by a six-person team, and it’s a great start. I believe that it can be very successful, given the right home, given resources and commitment.

Brent has a bias in this since he was the former iOS developer over there, but there’s little doubt that the team that did work on it cared about it.

Glassboard has become the ‘conference’ app for better or worse. Every Macworld, WWDC, and independent conference seems to set up a board for evening activities. I’m also using it for other things such running betas for Second Gear apps.

I doubt Second Gear has the resources to acquire Glassboard, but if I were the one to acquire it, here’s everything I’d do:

Change The App’s Mission

Brent said this:

The problem of persistent, private, and trustworthy group sharing is still an open problem.

It’s not a problem that needs solving, at least not in the way they are marketing it. Nerds care about privacy. Users care about reliability, features and usefulness. Privacy isn’t a feature. It’s an expectation.

Market it like this:

Glassboard enables you to connect, coordinate, and collaborate with a group of people independent of platform or location.

That’s the usefulness.


As part of that new mission statement, I’d put way more focus on collaboration and coordination. Add support for annotated messages beyond just images and video. Make it easy to embed a Google/iOS map with a specific place or your current location. Allow the user to link to a file that’s stored on his or her Dropbox account.

If you want to be super trendy, add some fun stickers that can spice up a conversation.

There are a million apps out there that do group chat already. None of them really do collaboration on mobile that well.

Rewrite the iOS app

The iOS app is serviceable, but not great. With iOS 7, I’d argue it needs a complete overhaul. Hire a designer, get to work and crank out a 1.0 visual refresh in 30-45 days after acquisition that targets iOS 7 and breathes fresh air into the product. Once you have the new visual design out there, focus on adding in the features like annotations or other metadata.

The Android app is pretty good. I don’t think it needs much of a visual refresh other than to sync up with visual identity.

Kill The Web App

The Glassboard web app is atrociously bad. They “needed” it, but the product they gave users was half baked at best. Kill it with fire and then bring it back when it’s fully baked.

Change the Business Model

I have been using Glassboard since it was first released and I have given them zero dollars. They came out with a “pro” plan, but the boundaries on it are all wrong. Unless you are a heavy Glassboard user, you will never hit the limits set. Good for users. Bad for business.

I’d charge a flat monthly fee per board. Base it on how many active users there are in that board on a given month and charge $x per head. Give away the first three users for free as the ‘trial’.

In the conference model that Glassboard is traditionally used for, the boards are throwaway so it’d be a yearly cost of $10 or $20 (I’m making up numbers). For people like me who use it for a beta with 25 or so people, I am putting money into the business on a monthly basis to keep it afloat.

Change the Name

For an app that touted itself as being heavily into privacy it was always curious to me that the name was prefixed with a see-through object like glass.

I’d instantly rename it Backchannel, but you could name it whatever you wanted. Glassboard doesn’t have enough of a following that you lose much awareness with the rename, but it does give you a fresh start out of the gate.

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By Justin Williams

This is a two sentence bio. There are many like it, but this one is mine.