At one point in 2013, I decided I was fed up with sending the same messages to the same people when we’d hang out — “Where are you now”, “Are you close?”, “I’ll be late”, etc.
Our phones all had ways of communicating that information passively anyways, so I figured there might be an opportunity to have an app do the work. The goal was always to make something that was so frictionless to use, that there’d be a greater benefit to using it vs. just sending messages.
I defined two categories of users — “organizers” and “joiners”, and distilled the workflow for organizers down into three easy steps:
Once an organizer would create an event, invited members would all receive push notifications, which would prompt them to either accept or reject the invitation. Upon accepting the invitation, they’d see themselves and other joiners in the app immediately. Not much more to it than that.
Another aspect to events was that they would expire after an hour, so there’d be a clear definition of when your location would be tracked, and when it wouldn’t be.
While everything up until now sounds great, there were serious flaws in the process.
One of them was the fact that locations weren’t really tracked passively, since background refresh didn’t exist at the time, and it was only possible to update locations when the app was in the foreground. This would become an unfortunate restriction that would detract from the app’s overall utility.
In retrospect, one thing I would have done differently would be to design the network stack completely different. Certain aspects of Parse were great, but because it relies on a REST-style API, realtime location updates were slow and innacurate, relying on refreshing after a fixed interval, and only when the app was in the foreground. I suspect a socket-based connection would have resulted in a better user experience.
Almost immediately after launch, iMessage rolled out the ability to send your location, which despite my three simple steps, made it impossible to compete with. While I learned a lot from making Missi0n, resserecting it would require carefully rethinking of goals and objectives.
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