YC-Funded Envolve Launches An API For Real-Time Chat

Internet chat is older than the web, but it still remains one of the best ways to keep people engaged with a site. And for good reason: people like talking to each other. Or at least, they like to share their opinions with the knowledge that someone, somewhere is reading them.

Now Y Combinator-backed startup Envolve is making it even easier to integrate chat boxes into your site by launching an API that offers chat-as-a-service. And it’ll let you integrate chat into nearly any webpage with a quick snippet of JavaScript. You can try one of their chat boxes out on TagChat, which lets you chat about trending topics on Twitter.

For some context on what Envolve is doing here, it’s best to look at the company’s history. Envolve has actually been around for a year now, iterating through several versions of the product. First, it offered a browser chat bar similar to the Meebo Bar and Facebook Chat. This bar prompted users to create Envolve accounts, which would allow them to chat with friends on the site they were currently browsing, as well as on other sites with Envolve integrated.

That didn’t get much uptake (people didn’t want to create yet another account), so the site later allowed websites to merge the toolbar with their own user account systems — which has fared better. The toolbar is now integrated into 20,000 sites including Destructoid and eleven sites run by Universal Music. All told, the partner sites account for 400,000 messages being sent per day, and over 45 million have been sent overall.

Thus far, Envolve’s chat products have offered side-wide chat, allowing users to engage with their friends. Today’s launch is different in that it allows sites to programmatically generate chat boxes for individual pages. So, for example, an online retail store could automatically create a chat box for each of its items without having to manually insert embed codes for each. This API is limited to desktop websites for now, but a mobile version is in the works.

On the backend, Envolve offers analytics and options to help site admins cut back on spam — you can require users to authenticate before they can start chatting, and there are also some default filters.

Envolve offers two pricing levels: the more basic, ‘consumer’ levels will allow up to 150 users to chat on the site concurrently, while the enterprise level has no limit and charges based on how many visits the site receives. Note that even users who don’t actually start chatting count as a visit, because they’ll still see what other people are chatting about.

Envolve’s competitors include Meebo (which has the Meebo Bar) and Wibiya.