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Chatterous, the startup that tries to simplify communication by letting you participate in chats through whatever medium you choose, has announced some new ways to interact with its service, including an embeddable chat widget and a group application programming interface (API). The San Francisco company also tells me that it’s seen dramatic growth since the beginning of the year.

The chat widget is exactly what you’d expect — it’s a way to embed a Chatterous chat on your website or blog. Of course, there are many, many other chat widgets out there, but Chatterous brings its own spin on the concept. Rather than simply integrating all your communication tools, Chatterous lets you choose one method — such as email, instant messaging, or SMS text messaging — then you can participate in a chat with people using other methods. So you’ve got multiple channels leading into one conversation. The chat widget is just another aspect of that strategy, adding another way users can watch and participate in the conversation. If you add the chat widget to, say, your blog, visitors can read and participate in the conversation on-site. But people don’t have to visit your site; in fact, most of the chat participants can still be emailing, IMing, etc.

As for the group API, company co-founder Kenshi Arasaki says it will give Chatterous groups more power over the kinds of updates they receive. People have already started using Chatterous in surprising ways, mainly with different kinds of alerts. For example, some startups set it up so that when their site goes down, the monitoring service contacts the Chatterous group, and then everyone receives an alert through their selected medium. Others have created a system where group members receive instant notifications about deals on Amazon. And now the API, which presents a way for developers to communicate with Chatterous more directly, offers more options “where automated delivery of an email, IM or text to a Chatterous group [isn’t] always convenient,” Arasaki says.

So, what about that growth? Arasaki didn’t share exact user numbers, but he did say that data on sites like Compete (which showed about 4,300 unique visitors in February) falls short, since the whole point of Chatterous is that you don’t have to visit the site except to register and configure your options. He also said that since Chatterous redesigned its web interface in December it has doubled daily user retention, multiplied the new user daily growth rate by five times, and grown more than 200 percent in terms of total users. The redesign includes automatically resizing chat windows, tabs for multiple groups, and more information on user bios and group description.

“Chat rooms don’t have to be locked into a proprietary platform on only one channel, and they don’t have to be hard to use,” Arasaki says. “We’re throwing down the gauntlet.”

The company was incubated by Y Combinator and raised less than $1 million in angel funding last year.


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