15. September 2003

[ English , Software ]

Why Trepia is not useful Software

When I heard about Trepia, I found it very interesting: The idea was to have an Instant Messenger that searches your environment for other users nearby so you could get in contact with them. I imagined sitting in conferences, scanning the wireless network for other participants and chatting with them and there were a number of other scenarios that looked promising.

But after having tried out the software at last weekend's freifunk.net summer convention, I have to say that Trepia is seriously flawed.

I probably had a couple of false expectations at the start: I thought Trepia could scan through a local WLAN and show me the other people that had Trepia installed, so I could connect with them. After checking the website again, I see that this is not the way the software works and if I had read the Thread on SlashDot first, I would probably have not even tried it out. But anyway: As a user I don't care of the software is not useful because of bad implementation oder because of bad design: I just want it to the things it claims to do.

Trepia claims to connect users in a local environment in an easy way. It fails to do this. Here is why:

1) Trepia requires a connection to the Internet to work.

When starting up the program, you have to log on at Trepia's central server. If you don't, you can't use it. That's no surprise if you compare it with classic IM software, of course, but isn't Trepia supposed to be a software that connects local users in local context? So why do I need a connection the the Internet? And what about use-cases like this one:

You are sitting in a hotel lobby, where there is no or just a much-too-expensive internet access. You fire up Trepia, connect to other people staing at the hotel and ask your way to the nearest free Hotspot.

And what if the connection to the Internet collapses (like it did at the convention and like it often does in conferences)? Trepia is no help here.

Next surprise:

2) Trepia uses a global list of users

If I wanted to find people somewhere on the globe, I would use my IM-network's whitepages or Google! When I use Trepia, I just want the people close to me. But filtering the list is impossible and the geographic search did not work for me (although I have heard of people that used it. Apparently there are just two users in Germany.) It's very easy to enter and change your location information and the personal message, which is nice, (you can search through the database for these elements, and so it's possible to find people that have entered "I am at conference X" in their details) but still that's no advantage over a classic IM.

It seems to me as if the designers of Trepia were not sure what to build: Another IM client oder a new kind of software to connect local users. While Jawed Karim, one of the two founders of Trepia, refers to Trepia as "iChat on Crack", in my opinion Trepia is not nearly as useful as iChat/Rendezvous and I doubt it will be successful.

Here's my 0.02 € of free consulting advice: Build something very simple that makes it possible for a user to find people close to him. Make it do just that. Make it interface with other IM clients.

The users don't want something fancy. They just want to meet people in their proximity. Let them accomplish that and you will be successful.


You are very much right. Trepia is far from being a useful application. The whole location based scene has produced quite number of useless toys, but things getting better. Have a look here http://www.tjacobi.com/archives/000208.html :-)

TJ am 15.09.03 21:45 #

Another proof that Apple has got great tools, but fails somewhere along the way.. Rendevous could indeed be great (and I guess they could easily provide something that only connects "close-by" peers), but it has a long way to go. The support for LANs only is a good start though.

Stephan Hochhaus am 15.09.03 22:30 #