You might think of GOGII (pronounced go-jee) as a sort of Skype for texting. GOGII executives have even joked about a new acronym, like ToIP, for text over IP. But today, the company says it’s taking its group text product to a whole new level by adding pictures, and it doesn’t use MMS.
TextPlus 4 Pics Edition is a social mobile application available free for download for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. iDevice users can set up picture communities, where a group of users texting in one community chat room can send and receive pictures to illustrate their discussions. Communities can be public, as may be the case for dog lovers, Justin Bieber fans or “Jersey Shore” devotees (for those willing to ‘fess up to the latter two) or private, such as a local cheerleading squad or office sales team.
One of the most interesting features is what GOGII calls “Face Text,” which means texters can get “emotive” by using the iPhone 4’s front-facing camera to take and post real-time facial expressions. GOGII says it’s like “texting from a photo booth.”
GOGII set out to bring new life to texting, which it has been doing with its textPlus ad-supported texting for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad and Android phones through both a mobile application and permanent short code, 60611. The picture component builds on that earlier success. Since its launch in June 2009, the textPlus app has been downloaded more than 8 million times.
GOGII’s founders are the same group who founded mobile game company Jamdat. They sold that entity to Electronic Arts for $680 million in 2006 and then decided to turn their attention to texting and creating a rich interface combined with a social experience. GOGII was founded in 2008; it’s backed by venture capital firms Matrix Partners and Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byer’s iFund, which is exclusively focused on those developing apps for Apple’s products.
Zachary Norman, president and chief creative officer of GOGII, explains that when he saw how young adults were adopting text messaging, it occurred to him that there was a fundamental shift occurring but without any sort of significant social overlay.
And while Textplus at first glance looks like something carriers would not be interested in supporting for lack of a clear revenue stream, GOGII’s founders insist they’re friends with the carriers, not enemies. They had learned enough from Jamdat that they knew they wanted to approach the carriers through the front door rather than going around.
The big challenge early on was getting their short code campaign approved, mainly because short codes were seen by carriers as marketing tools and they weren’t marketing anything – they were facilitating conversations, says GOGII CEO Scott Lahman. But once carriers saw how many messages could be driven by it, they were receptive. “I think they like the idea of innovation over text messaging,” Lahman says. “We are another reason to have a data plan.”
Messages are sent using SMS and IP. They hope to add MMS in the future, but that’s not how it’s done today.