The IRC-Galleria Team Builds Ninchat, A New Communication Tool For Teams


How does your team communicate at work? There are a lot of team communication tools out there, but check out Helsinki-based Ninchat, a nicely designed and accessible browser-based chat client. Ninchat is free to use and can be used for any sort of chat communication, but they're targeting the product towards companies that need secure team communication that's backed up in the cloud.

When logging on you'll notice it looks like an online version of IRC. Ninchat CEO Ville Mujunen calls IRC "beautiful" and "impossible to kill", but sees value in adding features and running it in a browser and through the cloud. Ninchat offers a secure backlog, history search, notifications when your name is mentioned, and video chat to get people communicating more efficiently, as well as mobile use as a HTML5 app (with a native Android and iOS apps eventually coming).

Ninchat is run by Somia Reality Oy, the company that also runs IRC-Galleria, an old-school social network that's still alive and kicking in Finland. IRC-Galleria was created in 2000 to help Finns put a face to a name when they chatted in IRC servers, but despite Ninchat's similarity to IRC they've removed the need for a "Ninchat-Galleria". When creating an account you make your own username and password, but you can log into Facebook to quickly grab your picture.

It's clear that the Somia Reality team has been thinking about the real benefits and potential of IRC-style communication on a level deeper than most. Mujunen predicts we'll see less email and more distributed work in the future, and a cloud communication tool like this will become more and more necessary. There are clearly competitors in the team communication space, but he asks, "Which company is going to learn fastest from the customers to change and adapt? We're not trying to become an overnight star and get sold to Google, but how could we help companies to communicate more efficiently?"

When creating the platform, Mujunen gave freedom to for the team to write the best communication protocol they could think of from scratch. The backend is hosted on Amazon, and combines the best parts of Go, C++, and Python for lightweight speed. Their technology is obviously being used for Ninchat, could also be used for machine-to-machine communication in games, or other uses. There are no maximum number of connected users a Ninchat channel can have, and each channel supports up to 12 connected webcams.

For Webcam support, Ninchat uses nothing fancier than Flash. Mujunen quickly qualifies they don't have any love relationship with Flash, but they use it because it's installed on nearly every computer. If a team wanted to start using Ninchat at work, they wanted to be sure that no one needed to install anything and therefore need admin rights to their computer. Instead, they want to lower the barriers to entry to get you chatting straight away. And still, they can brag that they have shorter latency than Google Hangout.

Ninchat is free to use up two channels and plans for own "organization" channel space start $15/month. Currently they're market testing the product with a few larger organizations, and are are also putting together a pop-up version of Ninchat to be used by a media company's consumers.

I've noticed most of the Ninchat team sits in the default chat lobby, so feel free to get in touch if you have any other questions.

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