GroupMe: In-App Chat Is In; John Mayer Jokes Are Out

mayor quimby GroupMe: In App Chat Is In; John Mayer Jokes Are OutEmployees at New York’s buzzmagnet start-up GroupMe are masters of discipline! The company pushed major updates this morning exactly when they said they would, along with a new website that’s straight from the computers on the spaceships of the future.

First, the app. What was yesterday a group text messaging and conference call app is now a more versatile tool. The big upgrade is in-app chat, which moves the group conversation to a data connection (and saves GroupMe some money on text messages). There’s the option to use SMS at any time, preserving functionality for non-smartphone users and anyone stranded without a mobile web connection. “The ability to toggle between SMS and push notifications is so dear to everyone over here’s heart,” co-founder Steve Martocci said. “We added all these features without at all alienating our original users.”

Android and iPhone users can also now add a photo and location to a message and see where group members are on a map. IPhone users can invite friends from Twitter, Facebook and Gmail and check into Foursquare when they add a location to a message. (A beta version of the BlackBerry app was released last week.)

GroupMe’s new crop of hires also set themselves upon the website. GroupMe’s hash-eyed smiley face has been restyled, the name is now lowercase and engineer Chris Connolly implemented a faux-3D effect on the homepage (use Chrome or Safari, and be impressed).

The upgrades have brought GroupMe to a crucial milestone on the grand roadmap in its co-founders’ brains, Mr. Martocci says, paving the way for quick iteration. “We know what’s coming and we know what we’re building,” he said. “We’ll be able to extend it quickly now.”

The company plans to reward (most of) its hardworking staff with a trip to South By Southwest, where GroupMe is planning parties and “fun surprises,” he said.

GroupMe itself received a fun surprise last week: a cease-and-desist notice from musician John Mayer. After the company unveiled its Foursquare integration at the Foursquare Hack Day, developer and Mayer megafan Pat Nakajima posted the code publicly on the programming forum Github as “john-mayer” with a link to johnmayer.com.

Mr. Mayer’s lawyer, who declined to comment for The Observer, promptly responded with a C&D. “They weren’t that cool with it,” Mr. Martocci said. “The library has been renamed after our favorite fictional mayor, Mayor Quimby from the Simpsons. Hopefully that’ll be okay.”

ajeffries [at] observer.com | @adrjeffries