Sachin Agarwal is a co-founder of Posterous, the microblogging service that makes publishing content online (literally) as easy as sending an email. It’s a gem of a web app and I for one love it.
I interviewed Sachin recently to find out about progress, plans and Pro accounts (which are coming later this year).
Making it (ridiculously) easy to post content online is at the very heart of Posterous. It really couldn’t be any more straightforward. Was this a starting point for you when you first thought of what Posterous could be, and what did you seek to accomplish?
Posterous is the easiest way to post everything online. You simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can attach images, video, audio, documents, anything at all. We’ll convert everything to the most web friendly format and publish it online, for free. It’s dead simple, yet powerful. You don’t even need an account to use Posterous. We want to let people focus on the content, instead of dealing with setting up websites.
This has been the goal of Posterous since day one. Instead of building hard-to-use web publishing tools we wanted to create something that is a joy to use. The first generation of web publishing tools were designed for long text posts, and don’t handle rich media well. We wanted to focus on rich media like images and video. Email seemed like the way to go since it handles all attachments well, and so many people use email constantly, everyday.
Then when the iPhone came out, it was a no brainer. We all want to post from our mobile devices, and email is the most universal way to do this. There’s no need to write apps for every device out there, email is already built into all the devices and software we use. By integrating into the tools people already use (email) and making posting dead simple and automatic, we will make Posterous the way to publish everything online.
What percentage of users automate the sharing of their content beyond Posterous? Which services are most popular, and why?
This is a very common use of Posterous. These days, we have communities all over the web. You have followers on Twitter, friends and family on Facebook, and maybe your photography friends on Flickr. You want all your communities to be notified whenever you post something, but it’s way too much work to do this manually. Posterous handles it all, in a single email.
Twitter and Facebook are the most popular autopost destinations. Twitter is a huge social network, but it doesn’t support rich media at all. So anytime you want to tweet some photos or a video, or anything longer than 140 characters, you can use Posterous.
Facebook does support rich media, but it doesn’t provide a customisable site that feels like your own. It feels like you are a guest, posting media to their website.
Are you planning to extend this autopost feature to other sites / apps? Self-hosted WordPress blogs, for example?
We already support autopost to self-hosted WordPress blogs, and about 25 other services in total. We’re adding to this list constantly.
There are two main reasons why we did autopost. First of all, we want Posterous to make all the other services you use even more powerful. Second, we don’t want there to be any excuse for not trying Posterous.
Are you already on Flickr and WordPress? Great! Check out autopost to those services. What we find is we get those users through the door with autopost, and eventually they use Posterous exclusively.
Are you hoping that Posterous is going to be the default conduit for uploading content to the web? Or does it fundamentally remain – first and foremost – a blogging platform?
We want to be the way you publish all rich media online. We’re happy being a conduit to other services since we can add value to them and this delights our users. But ultimately Posterous.com is where we will always focus. We want to be the destination for all your rich media, your home on the web.
Posterous blogs benefit from a lovely clean design, but when are you planning on launching customisation features to allow people to change the look and feel of their sites?
Theming is launched now. You can customise every part of your Posterous site and make it your own.
What can we expect in this area? Will it be limited to colours, fonts, etc, or are you going to allow extensive custom theme design?
We have pre-built themes that are gorgeous. Users can select one of these and then customise colors. Advanced users can go the next step and edit the CSS/HTML for full customisation.
What about widgets and ads? Will Posterous allow users to build out their blogs in this manner, potentially becoming independent publishers in process?
We’ll be adding support for widgets and ads in the future.
All of this leads onto the idea of ‘Posterous Pro’. Is it coming and what will it look like?
We’re looking to put out a pro version towards the end of the year. It will allow some advanced features like ads, and also give users more space.
We’ve made it so easy to publish rich media online, that users are posting more photos and video than ever before. So they are using up a lot of storage and want more.
For ‘Pro’, the difficult decision is always about where you set the bar between giving features away for free, and holding some back for ‘Pro’ users. What’s your thinking in this area, and which other web companies have struck the right balance in this area?
We want Posterous to be a useful service to millions of people, so we don’t want to charge for basic features. I don’t want my mom to come to the site and be forced to pull out her credit card, because she won’t.
It makes more sense to figure out what features are most advanced users want, and charge only for them.
How has the Y Combinator experience worked for you?
Y Combinator was an incredible experience. Garry and I spent about three months, living and working in a single room with two desks and bunk beds. We were incredibly productive. It was an exciting time for Posterous.
Y Combinator provided us with a lot of guidance that helped Posterous get started as a company, and helped make the product what it is today. Even now, we interact with the Y Combinator community almost daily.
You have some very high profile angel investors onboard. Are they actively helping you to shape Posterous?
We are very fortunate to have an amazing group of angels backing us. They are all entrepreneurs who have been in our shoes, and first built the technologies we use and build on today. They are incredibly helpful to us, some of them on a daily basis. They help us with both product and corporate advice.