We all remember Napster, the free file-sharing service created by two teenagers which revolutionized the internet, the music industry and can even be considered as a precursor to iTunes. Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning got back together again a few years ago to launch a flashy random cam site named Airtime. This was meant to be the big one, a great comeback onto the tech scene for two of the best-known entrepreneurs of our generation.
Parker and Fanning poured millions of dollars into Airtime, launching the business with an incredible amount of press and fanfare. The guests at the launch were a who’s who of celebrities and top investors. It was dubbed the ‘next big thing’ and our social world was about to change. The site went live to cheers from the worlds rich and famous, but, within a month it was gone. The company failed to live up to its hype and quickly became a punchline. Parker and Fanning had failed to deliver as they did when they were teenagers.
Airtime was flop for many reasons, the site was very buggy, the use of desktop instead of mobile, the difficult navigation and as a video chat site it simply didn’t live up to expectation. However, the flop of Airtime wasn’t the end of Parker and Fanning working together as a team. In fact, they have been quietly tweaking the program behind the scenes and re-launched it as OkHello, a mobile video chat app.
OkHello was launched in the exact opposite manner to Airtime. There was no fanfare, no celebrities, and no claims of it being the next big thing, there wasn’t even a press release. It was simply released in the app store and on the android market and allowed to display its abilities when downloaded. This approach seems to have worked for Parker and Fanning as OkHello has consistently been in the top 100 social media apps since its release, peaking in the top 10 on several occasions.
The app is instantly attractive, with a pleasant layout and smooth interface. Video chat is a huge market and this app makes group video, sharing photos, using text messaging, and audio chatting simple and fun. It seems Parker and Fanning have really hit the nail on the head with this app and with Facebook’s recent acquisition of WhatsApp, a simple and well-functioning mobile video chat service truly has the ability to be the next big thing.
The failure of Airtime has taught Parker and Fanning some valuable lessons in the rebrand and re-launch. The outlandish claims and bravado which surrounded the launch of Airtime allowed people to relish in its failure, however, the more subtle and stealthy release of OkHello has taken everyone by surprise. It has given the duo leeway with this project and allowed them to concentrate on creating an excellent product rather than excellent press.
It is great to see Parker and Fanning working together again as the success of OkHello could lead to the duo continuing to innovate and create new ideas and technology everyone can enjoy.