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Change is not always a bad thing

People dislike change. As a developer you get used to this. Whenever you make a change to a system that has been in place for quite some time you will always get messages that tell you the changes are bad, why change something that worked fine and requesting that you change them back.

Well we have just made such a change to one of our core systems, our website messaging service, and I want to explain why such changes are necessary and how they can benefit all users.

Firstly the existing messaging service was over 7 years old. In technology terms this is an eternity. It means that the technology is vulnerable to those who would choose to take advantage of it and it runs the risk of not working with modern browsers. You have to keep in mind that technology around us is advancing, if we like it or not and the likes of Microsoft and other tech giants release new versions of their software and Fridae is reliant on these technologies to run. So when a new browser came out like Microsoft Edge, we have to make sure we support it. These tech companies will try and make as much as possible backwards compatible, as do we, but there comes a point when they simply say, we no longer support this.

The new Chat Windows are fixed to the bottom of the screen and multiple windows can be open at once. Once the width of the screen is full a number will appear to show how many windows are open but not viewable. Clicking this number will show a list of these windows to enable you to select them. This is very specific to stop spammers opening multiple windows or getting automated message spamming systems to do it.

The method to see historic messages has not changed. On the profile menu (left hand side) click on Messages and you will see all new and past messages. Clicking on either the message box or the View link will open the chat window. You can then scroll up to see previous messages in this window. 

Fridae has also launched two new mobile apps in the last two years and these have become very popular with the members. As a result most messages or chatting is done via the apps, and here was our other issue. The website was missing many features found on the mobile apps, including sending and receiving pictures. Many users rightly pointed out that this is standard functionality in many other websites of this type.

It should be noted that many of our competitors do not operate any service on a website and only operate through apps. This is not a direction we are looking to go in.

So we have launched Live Chat. We have been working on it for some time. This is the foundation for many new functions that will be coming to Fridae including a new Voice calling service through the app and website similar to WhatsApp but without the need to give out your telephone number.

We have tried to keep the format familiar, using the same format used by major systems like Facebook. This seemed sensible as we have also used very similar technology to the big chat giants in the market.

Live chat will also allow you to send messages back and forward without receiving a huge number of emails.

I want to also talk about spammers on the system. Recently we introduced an interim measure to ask people to confirm suspicious messages with a captcha code. This has radically reduced spamming on the system. However there were users that used the inadequacies of the message system to encourage you to send them an email to see a picture. Now you have the option to say no, send me a picture on Live Chat. We encourage you to be careful sending out your email address to people you do not know, once you leave our chat system we can not take action on a spammer.

We know that there will be bugs and that we will be releasing patches for Live Chat over the next few weeks. Already two patches have been release, one because of a formatting issue with Internet Explorer and one to increase the size of the area you type your message. (this now dynamically increases up to five lines as you chat.) We are currently looking at a way to make the chat window more obvious when it appears.

However if you experience an issue we would be grateful if you would let us know, giving us as much information as possible. Specifically it would be useful to know the browser you are using and the version of that browser. If you can send a screen shot it would also be very useful. You can find how to do this with a very simple google search, but it is different for different operating systems.

We have also launched a number of new functions on our mobile apps. These include, locking the app, updating your location when the app is in the background, the ability to request to view adult pictures, and a new abuse reporting system. The apps are now also in Italian. Do not forget to update your app to take advantage of these new functions.

We must move forward as a product, because our competitors will also. We face many challenges in advancing technology and we are already looking at new features including Apple Watch compatibility, An Apple TV app and integration with Car Play. If we are to compete in this ever changing market change is essential.

Some interesting Stats for you:

99% of all Chat is currently via the mobile apps

Since introducing the new website live chat we have seen a 78% increase in chat usage.

Update: We will be launching a further update today that will give an audible notification, a message in your browser title bar and a flashing header to the chat when new messages are received.

Update 3rd January: We have made a change to the background colour of the chat window to resolve an issues that members found it difficult to distinguish it from the website background.

We are very please to see that the use of chat has continued to increase today now up 100%, i.e double the usage we were seeing before the upgrade.

An Update On Progress

It has been seven months since we took control of Fridae and I thought it was timely for me to give you, the members, an update of what we think we have achieved in that time.

First of all, we know this is not a finished job, far from it. We came into this project with our eyes open with a clear realisation that the fridae infrastructure needed a lot of work. However when picking up code that was written by someone else, there will always be an amount of time simply finding out what it does.

Lets start with what we have done:

  1. Almost immediately we migrated the site onto a new, more flexible hosting platform. This allowed us to increase hosting resources as needed.
  2. We were also keen to resolve the problems caused by the picture policy on the site. We introduced a picture moderation policy, which meant that members could then have adult pictures on their profile. Members with perks were then able to view these pictures, while we could filter out these pictures when viewed on the mobile apps, as Google and Apple do not permit them. It was a very interesting time as all of us in the office, having to moderate the hundred’s of thousands of pictures before this policy could be introduced.
  3. Also quite early on we did realise that the push messaging on the iPhone app was not running and we starting work on getting the service back up and running. Recently we have rewritten the way this push service works for all apps and now the service should react immediately when messages are sent.
  4. In July we launch version 1 of the web app. This app worked on all mobile platforms and gave a certain amount of functionality for users, including messages and radar searches. We see this as an ongoing development and we would expect to see more functionality in the future versions.
  5. This was followed by version 1 of the Android app. We tried to get this released as quickly as possible. There have been some bugs to iron out but again we see this as a continuous  development project. More about this later.
  6. We have also reintroduced the credit card facility on the site, initially with Master Card and Visa but we hope to expand this in the near future.

So that brings us to the current day. Over this last weekend we have been launching our new revised Chinese language service. We will be now be publishing editorial articles in Chinese, sending out newsletters and supporting more, the users in this language. This is something I hope we will be able to build on as time goes by.

We have also started a series of travel promotions starting with Hong Kong “Out In Hong Kong”. This is provided in partnership with one of our sister sites hotmale.net. It also sees the restarting of the Fridae Travel section with listing of LGBT venues all over the world.

Yesterday also saw the launch of the next major upgrade of the Android App. (Version 2). This includes many layout changes to help make the use of the app easier.

One big complaint we also get from our users is that the picture upload size is very small. We agree, and I am pleased to announce that this has been increased to 5mb.

So what is to come in the future.

Well our biggest development item is the rebuild of the iPhone app. The current app was built for iOS4 and is very out of date. Unfortunately we never had an editable version of this and as a result we can not fix the bugs, the only option is a complete rebuild.

We are also looking at, Real Time Chat, Tribes, Events Calendar, Business/Services Directories, Shop and Flight Bookings, as well as a compete rebuild of the website itself.

We also want to improve the security when registering on the site, to start to filter out any spammers, we know how annoying they can be. We are grateful for those of you who report these people to us. In the mean time please be careful before you give out any personal details about yourself to other members. Especially if their opening line is asking you to send them an email.

We have a few more things planned but I will let you know about them in the future.

We appreciate the feedback and comments the members send through. All get sent through to our development team for consideration. The more constructive the better.

I see Fridae as a community and it is my intention to see this community grow, I hope we can do this together.

Fridae Managing Director

Welcome to Fridae, the largest online gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in Asia. We bring you the latest news on politics, health, LGBT rights, and issues that affect gay Asia. Add your own profile to our personals section to meet new people and chat live to people from all over Asia and the world. We know gay Asia—check out our travel section for information on where to go and where to stay, and find out where to shop with our gay-friendly business directory. Join us in empowering LGBT Asia.