Dartmouth students who compulsively check their BlitzMail accounts can now find reprieve even when BlitzMail terminals are nowhere in sight. Launched two weeks ago by four Dartmouth alumni, Flurrymail.com allows e-mail users to send and receive messages by cell phone.
Dan Scholnick ’00, one of the creators of WebBlitz, along with Gabe Vanrenen ’03, Karl Harris ’00 and Sean Byrnes ’00, started the company about nine months ago in response to student and alumni requests.
“Once you leave campus you get very frustrated that there aren’t blitz terminals all over the place,” Scholnick said.
At the moment, until revenue plans are finalized, Flurrymail is available to all consumers at no charge. Flurrymail’s creators further emphasized that even when such price plans are in place in the future, the service will always be free for the Dartmouth community, as a way of giving back to their alma mater.
While the Flurrymail service itself is free, the service can still carry a hefty price tag. In order to install the application on a cell phone, the phone must have an Internet Data plan. Two recommended data plans for Cingular and T-Mobile carriers cost $5.99 per month and $9.99 per month, respectively.
In order to receive text message notifications for new e-mails, users incur additional costs when they purchase text message plans from their carrier.
In addition to the need for mobile e-mail within the Dartmouth community, the entrepreneurs noticed a demand among the general population.
“We looked around and found that for the retail consumer there aren’t any adequate solutions for portable e-mail,” Scholnick said.
While mobile phones have become ubiquitous in modern society, with 200 million cell phone users in the United States, they are rarely used for more than placing phone calls. Existing mobile e-mail solutions often require expensive upgrades to devices like the Blackberry or the Pocket Trio.
“We thought that providing a really good mobile e-mail service would be a great idea not just for the Dartmouth community but for the broader community of mobile handset owners,” Scholnick said.
A simple two-step sign up process on the website kicks off the application on most mobile telephones, allowing the user to quickly and easily retrieve their e-mail. Flurrymail automatically sends a text message to a user’s phone prompting them to install the service after they sign up on the website.
“My mother could do it,” Scholnick said. “It’s really easy.”
In addition to supporting multiple e-mail accounts per user, Flurrymail allows a user to receive news feeds from a host of websites by setting their preferences on the Flurrymail website.
Although Scholnick declined to release total usage numbers for competitive reasons, he explained that of the Dartmouth users of the service, 45% are alumni while the other 55% have Dartmouth.edu e-mail addresses.
Some students, however, do not view the service as very valuable.
“I think it’s a neat idea, but I don’t think I would use it,” Jeff Garber ’09 said. “It’s not worth the cost considering the number of Blitz terminals we have on campus.”
In recent years the BlitzMail phenomenon has possibly begun to slow, with freshmen and upperclassmen alike choosing cell phones over BlitzMail, in certain circumstances, for the sake of convenience. Scholnick suggested that “Flurrymail allows the blitz culture to coexist with cell phones.”
However, students like Ben Schwartz ’06 feel as though this new technology may be allowing the “Blitz-leash” to grow too long.
“We’re getting to a point where our habits with Blitz and cell phones devalue the Dartmouth experience,” Schwartz said. “Already, too often we give our computers and phones more attention than we give our professors and peers.”
Regardless, Scholnick says that the service has received an enthusiastic response from people nationwide. In order to market the service, the Flurrymail team has targeted four or five universities, including Harvard University, and has done some online advertising to the general public.
The Flurrymail team is struggling to keep up with the infrastructure due to larger numbers of customers signing up for the service than expected.