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DLS Interview: 'Posterous' Co-Founder Sachin Agarwal


There are many ways to share your content online with family and friends. From Flickr to Facebook to MySpace, YouTube and Twitter, there's no shortage of ways, or platforms, to express yourself via words, pictures and videos. Several months ago I was introduced to another of these type of sites called Posterous.

At Posterous, much like these other sites, you can post words, pictures and videos via email from whatever device you happen to be using -- be it iPhone, iPod Touch, Blackberry or desktop computer. At first, I was a bit skeptical about how Posterous would distinguish itself from the other sites and platforms I use regularly.

However, once I started using Posterous and had my own page, I was quickly impressed with its simplicity, its design and its usability. Soon it became my site of choice for posting images on the go from my iPhone and may very well replace Flickr as my photo site of choice in the near future.

Recently, I talked with Sachin Agarwal, one of Posterous' co-founders, to get all the latest info on the site, how it came to be and where its going.

CHRIS ULLRICH: First off, let's talk a bit about your background. Where did you grow up, go to school, work and develop the skills to do something like Posterous?

SACHIN AGARWAL: Garry and I both went to Stanford and majored in Computer Science. When I graduated, I worked at Apple on Final Cut Pro for 6 years which was all the way up to starting Posterous. I was building the real-time playback engine and effects architecture.

That didn't have a direct impact on the formation of Posterous, except that we're definitely Apple people at heart, and we want to be the Apple of blogging. We want to make the simplest, most beautiful site out there, and make it accessible to the masses.

CU: When did you first have the idea for Posterous, how is it put together and when did it first go live?
SA: Garry and I are both active photographers, and we've both had blogs of some sort since before blogging was a term. As rich media became more common, Blogger, Xanga and Wordpress became unusable.

I just want to come home and post 50 photos on my blog, quickly. Why is that so hard?

When the iPhone came out, it was even more apparent that we needed a better rich media publishing solution, and email made the most sense. it's on my iPhone, one click publishing on the go. it's in iPhoto, 1 click email to my blog.

It's everywhere I have content to share.

The "wow" moment for me was when I was on vacation in New Zealand and I was posting photos to my blog from the hotel room in seconds. No need to wait until you get home, because it's just that easy.

We launched Posterous in June, 2008. We were part of the Y Combinator Summer 2008 batch in Boston. At the time I was based in New York and Garry was in Mountain View. After we raised our funding, we both relocated to San Francisco.

CU: Tell us a little about what Posterous is and your vision for it?

SA: Posterous is the dead simple way to publish online. You simply create an email message and attach photos, video, audio, or documents. We'll take it all in, host it, convert it to the most web friendly format, and publish it online in seconds.

We do all the work for you.

Since we first launched, we've added a ton of new features. We're the simplest group site out there, which is great for families, and the best baby site. We have private sites and can handle video straight from a camera. We also have pro features.

When you email us, we'll also update all the other social media services you use like Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and Wordpress. All in one shot. All in one email.

CU: How do most users typically use the site? Only for pictures, as a blog or. . . ?

SA: We have a wide range of users. Some people definitely use us as a Twitpic/mobile blogging solution. It's just so simple to shoot a photo on your iPhone and have it published online. However, we don't want to be thought of as only a micro-blogging solution, we'll accept anything you send us.

We're commonly used as a shared family website since our group functionality is so easy to use. For example, your mom doesn't even need an account to email posts to your site.

People use us for baby blogs a lot, since we handle video, can create photo galleries and you can add a password to your site. And many people use us because you can update all the sites you use in one shot.

We've been particularly successful in getting Wordpress users to use our site, since they have existing blogs and readers, but posting rich media to their sites is a disaster.

So it's a bit all over the place right now, but we're happy that we can cater to so many people.

CU: How does Posterous differ from something like Flickr or Twitter with its Twitpic functionality?

SA: One of our goals with Posterous is "send us anything, we'll make it look good." Too many sites out there force you to make decisions, limiting what you can send to them. Twitter is 140 characters. Twitpic is 1 photo. Flickr is not a blog.

Why do i need so many different sites to share? With Posterous you can share anything, and not worry about how it will look on the site. We take care of it all, and build your place on the web.

Most of these other sites are fairly difficult to use. Don't think about you, or me. But think about the rest of the world out there. If you think about it, Flickr is extremely hard to use. It's way geeky.

Everyone is trying to define new tools, new concepts and new workflows. This limits who can use these services. We want to offer all the powerful features other sites have (and more) but package them in much more intuitive and understandable ways.

Think about the iphone. it does what all the other smart phones do, and more. Yet it's still so simple that my mom got one and figured it all out with no help from me.

That's what we want to do.

CU: Where do you see the site going in the next six months, a year, five years?

SA: It's definitely hard to think that far out, especially considering our company is just 9 months old and has already changed to much since we started. Right now we're still adding some pretty major features that are going to make publishing even easier.

As we add more powerful editing tools, customization, and analytics, we think Posterous will become useful to businesses who want easy media publishing.

CU: What features are you going to implement in the near future?

SA: Right now we have two major features in the pipeline. The first is theming and customization. Users want to customize their site, make it their place on the web.

We're going to let them do this. But like everything else we do, it will be dead simple.

The second is an iPhone app.

One of the beauties of Posterous is since we're focussed on email, we already work well with the iPhone. But we're working on some pretty powerful photo sharing capabilities in our iPhone app that are going to wow people.

CU: What features would you love to implement but haven't been able to do yet for some reason?

SA: We get a lot of requests from our users. Our users love us, and they come to us passionately with great ideas all over the place. We'd love to implement all the stuff they come up with.

CU: What other projects do you have planned and what else are you working on at the moment?

SA: We're 100% on Posterous right now. We're adding new features to the existing site and just trying to keep up with the growth.

Tags: blogging, email, photos, posterous