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New Features Coming

Over the next few weeks we'll be adding a bunch of new features to the gateway and bringing across some of the features from our API Monitoring Service. 

Watch this space as there are going to be some cool new features. 

Meanwhile, check out www.viatests.com and sign up for the Beta and if you haven't yet, sign up for http://dev.viafo.com

Problems with the platform?

An interesting piece on the Facebook Developer Platform.   The money quote is pretty clear:

The short truth is this: Facebook doesn't care if developers can use the platform easily or at all.

Which lies at the heart of why you need something like the Viafo Gateway sitting between you and the different social networks (and other services) making it easy for you to integrate, use and keep track of the performance so they don't become a critical problem for your app or service. 

Sign up for a free trial account today at http://dev.viafo.com

 

 

API Performance Monitoring

We're launching a new service in beta to compliment our Viafo API service.  Viatests will track and monitor the performance of the different services you have in your applications and provide you with alerts and updates when things change or go down.

We also track the performance in terms of latency so you'll know when a slow responding API could be causing you problems. 

Go to www.viatests.com to sign up for the Beta program. 

Get SOCIAL!

More evidence this week of the link between a strong social engagement strategy and device use.  In the Business Insider they've some interesting data points on the impact of social on mobile use patterns. 

  • Users of social media mobile apps spend an average of 9 hours a month (about 18 minutes daily) on the services, according to recent Nielsen data from March 2013.  That monthly time-spend climbed by about 13% in eight months. 
  • By comparison, desktop and laptop PC users of social media spend about 6 to 7 hours a month on social networks. That time-spend hasn’t budged for about two years. 
  • Finally, users spend a little over 1 hour a month visiting social media sites on the mobile Web (HTML5 pages in their mobile browser, rather than stand-alone “native apps” written specifically for Android and iOS phones).  

Making sure you have a clear and focused mobile strategy is paramount and the Viafo Services Gateway ensures that you maximize this way to engage with your clients.

Twitterpocalypse Round 2

A couple of years after the first Twitterpocalypse, here comes the second.  Twitter are moving everything over to a new API and thus will be breaking a bunch of stuff buried in native applications.   

Of course, in true, tried and tested Twitter style while they've been running the old and new APIs side by side, they weren't all that forthcoming over the date they would switch off the old one.

Apparently it was a few hours ago.  Of course, anybody using the Viafo Gateway is completely insulated from the change, we already had made the switch over, and any applications using our APIs will continue to work as expected.  But how prepared were you? 

Don't give up control - Native Integration Woes

One of the regular questions we are asked is: don't we get similar integration thought the platform?  If so, why should we use you?

It's a good question.  But it's missing one of the fundamental issues.  Are the users of your apps your customers or Apple or Google customers?  If the answer is that they're yours, and that you need to know what they're doing and with which social networks and where then you need to be more careful with how you interact with them.  Viafo's gateway gives you several advantages over the native SDK integration.

  1. No more SDKs - using our approach allows code re-use across different platforms, 
  2. Manage social networks remotely - through our Service Discovery API you don't have to worry about a change to a social network, or a regional variation every meaning you have to re-write your main application again
  3. Full Analytics - detailed use stats for everything social inside your app, giving you breakdowns by platform, geography, social network and more
  4. Branded Sharing - using the gateway means that you can trace back shares to your company or app - rather than to a phone OS

Remember that social networking between your customers using your apps is one of th most important things you can have.

API Monitor goes alpha

We've been working on making a piece of our technology available to everybody and today we're ready to go live with the early Alpha of our API Monitoring product.

Current oAuth status for major web services

Current oAuth status for major web services

One of the challenges we've faced is knowing when the 3rd party services we support breaks or changes in such a way that it would break our product, or a client's application.  We also wanted to know what latency levels the different social networks operate at.  As we didn't find what we were looking for, we went off and built it.  

Currently, we're showing you the averages for the last week.  But if you're interested in having more access and the ability to look at the performance of other APIs, then drop us a line at info@viafo.com to register your interest.

The current version is monitoring a number of common web APIs, Social Networks and some carrier APIs.  Over the next few weeks we'll be adding more, and will be shortly launching a premium version.

Take a look at http://viatests.appspot.com.

Managing Alerts - do you know where things fail?

Following on from the piece in CITEWorld calling for a Chief API Officer, we had another great example of why people need services like the Viafo Gateway.  Our gateway picked up a dramatic change in API use from one of our client's applications and alerted us.  We were able to contact the client and inform them that their daily sign in activities that we are brokering using our Single Sign In service, had gone from over 500 a day, down to 4....  Given their average activity this seemed unlikely to us and we alerted their team.

It turned out that another service they used had failed and was blocking customers from completing the sign in process and they hadn't been alerted.

This follows on from a security change made by Facebook earlier in April which had also blocked their application and required them to make changes.  Without our service alerting them to significant changes in use patterns, it could have been days or weeks before they found out that there was a problem.

This is core to our value proposition for our customers.  Not only are we saving time and money with integration to common web services, but we're an essential piece of your monitoring solution.

The Chief API Officer

Time for the Chief API Officer

There is an excellent piece in CITEWorld concerning the growing need for a Chief API Officer within any organization working in mobile.  Yes, the article mentions Viafo and our solution, but there's a serious point in there about the need to manage your APIs.

A mobile, TV, in-car or application for any other screen needs integration to 3rd party services in order to maximize the value of the application and drive 'stickiness'.  Without that, you've essentially got a webpage circa 2003.

But managing your APIs isn't always as straight forward as it sounds, especially if you have to deal with secure 3rd party identification services.  Obviously, with our ability to set geographical policies for API yes, generically handle oAuth across multiple services and provide integrated and detailed analytics on in-app API use, we see Viafo as the best solution.  But whatever and whoever you use, it's essential.

Mobile World Congress 2013

So, this is going to be an interesting one.  While it's back in it's home of the last decade, Barcelona, they've moved to a new location, so the first day is going to be even more confusing than usual.

But what to expect?

Well, in some respects, from a purely mobile perspective, CES this year was, to put it bluntly, a bit poor.  Very few interesting devices on display and no real phone announcements.  The consensus was that the phone companies with the exception of Apple were keeping their powder dry.  Apple being a special case who don't bother to do things with the rest of the industry.

The definite feeling I'm getting from the preparation work we've been doing is that the industry has really evolved in the decade I've been attending.  For my early Mobile World Congress events (back when it had just become 3GSM) the focus was very much on the handsets - form factor, color screens, cameras and the like and data speed.  This year, I think I can comfortably say is all about the apps.

From our perspective we'll be showing 3 new things to the public and over the course of the next few days, we'll be posting more details.

Just contact me if you want to meet up next week and see you all in Barcelona!

oAuth 1.0, 2.0, 2.err? Standards and why you need us

We recently found that one of our API services we manage for clients had stopped working.  We couldn't figure out why, except we were suddenly getting strange errors and our tracking system alerted that somewhere, somehow, an API had changed.

We traced the culprit to our old friend the oAuth 'standard'.  Basically,  OAuth2 originally specified that the access token was a parameter in the HTTP request:

e.g.  https://graph.facebook.com/me?access_token=blah&foo=bar

This is easy to use… but this is bad from a HTTP usage perspective – the access token is authorization token, not something that should be handled by the end resource. That kind of thing should go in the headers.

So, they spec’d it as a header:

Authorization: Bearer TOKEN_VALUE

So, here's the thing, the final spec mentions that the old way exists but is not recommended (it actually wasn't mentioned for a while) - our client had done the right thing and upgraded the spec, the problem was it broke how people integrated to their APIs.  We'll predict, but not guarentee that Facebook won't do the samething because it will catch out too many people and apps.

So, now we have 2 oAuth 2.0 standards, and, of course, oAuth 1.0 is still out there.

Remember, our service is designed to let us worry about this mess for you, so check out our developer site and try us for free today: http://dev.viafo.com

SoMoLo - The Retail Perspective

Forbes has an excellent piece on SoMoLo and the importance of this to retailers.  Naturally we're in full agreement, but would extend that to all types of information and content that people want to get out to their customers.

Viafo's Service Gateway's core functionality is to make it easy and cost effective to integrate Social Mobile and Location services into your existing mobile apps, but we're starting to look at wider use cases than that, as the solution we just delivered for Classic Accessories up here in the Pacific Northwest shows. 

In that project, we've used our gateway and technology not just to deliver SoMoLo content direct to people when they go shopping, but we also integrated into their BazaarVoice CRM system and also provided a complete, hosted solution for delivering HTML5 micro-apps for any smartphone.

The future is going to be about giving customers and consumers all the information they need, in an interactive and viral way straight to their phone or mobile device!

Drop us a line if you're interested in learning more or having a demo of our technology for retailers.

New Look, New Quarter...

As you may have noticed we've given the website a facelift.  The goal is to provide a better and clearer view of what it is we do here at Viafo, and also showcase some of the great customer solutions we've enabled over the summer months.

It's been an exciting summer for us, with a lot of new features and technology being put in place and we've a lot planned for the next 3 months too!  There's also a lot of movement in the social and API space and we're planning to be here to help you keep ahead of that curve.

The main things to watch out for in the coming month is yet another change to the Twitter API and what we're calling the Tokenpocalypse from Facebook.  Naturally, if you're already working with Viafo, these are not going to affect your apps.  The worst thing that will happen is your users may have to sign into their social networks.  If you're not, then this is likely to require a rewrite of your apps on all platforms!  Another good reason to shift to Viafo we think!

In other news, this quarter we'll be launching the following services:

  • International Social Networks including regional management
  • Social CRM v1
  • Basic Social Scoring - score and track your users based on what they do and share
  • Polls
  • New Carriers

It's a big quarter we have coming up and we hope you'll be coming along for the ride.

South African Perspective on Social Networking Growth

An interesting article here on the growth of Social Networking in South Africa.  While this article is focused on Facebook and Instagram,  the section that interested me was this:

Blackberry and Nokia are still the most popular brands in South Africa, accounting for around 87 percent of the smartphones in the country. Blackberry holds the majority of that with around 46 percent of South African using a Blackberry. Nokia's share of the local market is around 41 percent.

iPhone is way in last place with 3%.  It's often forgotten that the entire global market isn't just the iPhone, and nor is it Facebook and Twitter.  Viafo's strength is to free developers, brands, carriers and agencies from having to focus on 2 platforms and only 2 social networks.

AT&T Developer API Support

Viafo is delighted to annouce that we've added support for several of AT&T's API Services.  By using the Viafo Gateway, you can now work with SMS, Location and Payment APIs with a fraction of the time and effort that working directly with the API will be.

Additionally, with the Viafo Gateway, developers don't have to hard code payment scenarios to their applications and can easily change and manage.

Keep your eyes out for more annoucements about supported carrier APIs on AT&T and other networks.

Check out the service at the Viafo Developer Site.

Updated Tumblr - No Need to Write More Code!

 

One of the great features of the Viafo platform is you don't have to change your apps when APIs change or alter, you can either add the new API or we'll upgrade the old one.  Tumblr is in the process of a major upgrade to their APIs, moving from basic authentication to a more secure and 'modern' oAuth based authentication.

Because this is a significant change and will require users to authenticate in a different way, we've decided to run both Tumblr APIs in parallel for a few months.  So we'd recommend going into your apps and adding the V2 API and then later removing the V1 API - remember that's all you need to do, the UI in your app will handle the changes automatically!

We've also taken the opportunity with the V2 API to enable commenting on Tumblr threads through our REPLY API and added FOLLOW to allow you to follow specific Tumblr accounts, all in the same way you'd do it with Twitter.

Other Updates:

Facebook Like:  We've just finished implementing the new Facebook Graph LIKE function, to map to our existing FOLLOW API - this doesn't work quite the way that you might expect and we'll be issuing a tutorial for this shortly.

Check-In: We're now supporting Unified Facebook and Foursquare Check-In through the same gateway API and we've provided reference code on Github for how you can make use of this in your applications.

SoMo - Saskatoon

"Would you like to speak at a Social Mobile event in Saskatoon?" I was asked.  I blinked.  I had to look on a map, sorry Canadians, I really didn't have a clue.  

Due to our interest in APIs we're currently helping the GSMA evangelize the launch of the OneAPI gateway in Canada and they wanted somebody to talk about their new cross carrier play, meanwhile, they also suggested I give a talk on the subject of if Mobile and Social are so important why are their so few Socially enabled Mobile apps?  I'll post more on that later.

It's an interesting event, focused more on the concepts behind mobile and social than on the technology.  This made it something of a bust from the perspective of getting developers aware of Viafo, but it was certainly extremely interesting in terms of content and what companies are doing with Social.

Most interesting was a talk by Dave Carrol of 'United Breaks Guitars' fame on how his viral video came about and the impact this has had on airline customer service.  This followed on nicely from a morning talk by Darren Hailes the head of Social Media at Canadian Low Cost airline Westjet about how they use Social Media and the web to engage their audience.  Having spent 5 hours in Calgary on the way here due to weather this was a subject dear to my heart.

My main takeaways: people are starting to grasp the importance of social, but they're still failing to put it front and center of their web and mobile planning - in the long term that's going to be a huge mistake for any brand.

Flurry Says Social Media Apps Now Rival Games

Games, games, games...that is has always been the 500LB gorilla of the App world.  Well at least until today when App analytics company Flurry announced that for the first time in the history of applications … another app category is rivaling games,” according to Peter Farago, vice president of marketing at the analytics firm.

Read more: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/173469/social-network-apps-rival-games-for-mobile-attenti.html#ixzz1taQD35IY  and be sure to suscribe to our mailing list for the latest and greatest in the SoMoLo App economy at  http://eepurl.com/jTrrP

Viafo Services Gateway at AT&T Mobile App Hackathon

Come and join us this weekend at the AT&T Hackathon!  Viafo are going to be showing how our gateway can be used to simplify the integration to AT&T's carrier APIs.

We're providing some simple reference code and access to some of AT&T's APIs like Location, SMS and the mHealth service.

Viafo Services Gateway, Developer Version Now Available!

It has been an exciting and busy few weeks since our last post from SXSW.  As we mentioned in Austin, we have been hard at work on a Public Beta of a Developer Version of the Viafo Services Gateway. Well that day has come as we are proud to announce that Services Gateway is now publicly available, and free at (http://dev.viafo.com).  

Viafo’s Services Gateway reduces the cost of integrating and maintaining Services integration. By adding our free reference code into your App code, your App will be deeply integrated with all the major services, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and more.  Services can be added and managed from the cloud without ever having to update your apps.  Reference code is available for iPhone, Android, HTML5 (Sencha and jQuery Mobile libraries provided), Samsung Bada, Nokia QT for S60.  Additional features include:

Authentication Support: oAuth 1.0 & 2.0 support through the Viafo Service Discovery API

Supported Interactions: Update Status, Reply, Comment, Message, Like/Follow, Get Friends, Check-In

Supported Social Networks (Q1 2012): Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Foursquare

Reporting: App use stats, regional use, social networking use & sharing by app, region and network, social networking use. Export to CSV & .XLS

Moderation: Content management and blocking - moderation holds for Social Networking Posts

Control: Web Control Panel for all apps