Blog Post

Up with Downfly

For the past few days I have been trying out Downfly, a Firefox extension that allows you to email webpage links to one or more of your friends, without having to cut-and-paste the URL in your email message. That sounds simple enough, but what really is interesting is that Downfly can track where those links go, i.e., if any of your friends forward them to others.

Think of it as yet-another twist on bookmarking services that litter the tech landscape. But one of the reasons I got intrigued by this extension is because it fits into my theory of ultra-personal social networks. My good friend Pip Coburn calls it extreme personalization.

The social networks that matter are the ones which are the closest to you – one or two degrees of separation. A good example would be folks in your Phone’s address book or contacts on your PC. These are the people, whose opinions (and relationships) are more important than to some random person. So if they like a bookmark, there is a good chance I will too. Downfly does precisely that.

Downfly is the brainchild of 20-something programmer, Billy Chasen who has working on this for past year and is backed by angel funding from John Borthwick, Seth Goldstein and Brad Reifler. “The idea behind is that most other services are about comments, votes or clicks. This is about your personal social network’s validation of a link,” says Chasen, “which makes these links more valuable. ”

When you sign-up for the service, import your contacts and basically create groups. You can email the links to a specific person, or to an entire group. The more a link gets sent around, the higher the authority (and relevance) of that link. You can subscribe to other people’s Downfly (if they make it public.)

The best part is that recpients of the links don’t need to use the plug-in or download one. The service goes one step further and emails them a compiled list of the links sent to their email (from you and anyone else who sent to them) as one simple digest, at a set time.

The site is butt-ugly, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from trying this service. And even if you don’t care about this service as much, you would be helping a one-man company with your comments and feedback.

Check out this video to get a better idea how Downfly works.

13 Responses to “Up with Downfly”

  1. Downfly sucks

    I made sure that the invite setting on downfly was not selected while importing contacts.

    It continued to spam all my contacts with “New connection” emails.

    Not good.
    Not good at all.

    A very bad experience, I trusted OM’s comments before this.

  2. I’ve never used the Send Link in Firefox and even more so never used the links that various sites put on their articles like “Email this to a friend!”

    I think Downfly makes sense because it extends the interesting process of sending a link to a friend (or a group of friends for that matter) and then having a discussion revolve around it.

  3. LOL, butt-ugly! I guess after 1 year of work you expect something more decent. It’s very similar to Digg and StumbleUpon mashed. I like it but I won’t be using it, at least not seriously. As much as we hate email, its still what people use.

  4. Thanks everyone for the feedback as well as to Om for the post.

    I think some people are seeing this as “I don’t have a problem sending links via e-mail”. You don’t have a problem, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be easier to do. And it especially gets more annoying when you want to send it to more than just one friend (and do this several times a day).

    Additionally, downfly adds numerous features that are just impossible to accomplish with straight e-mail. Things like, seeing how much the link gets sent around and which of your friends actually clicked on it and viewed it. And my personal favorite, what links are popular? Maybe from a friend of a friend (and I would have never seen the link with just e-mail)

    If anyone has any other thoughts, I’ll be here or you can leave me feedback through Thanks!

  5. I think that the usefulness of this depends on:

    1) how big your network is and
    2) how networked you are with that network

    I’ve got a small close group of friends, and don’t have anyone writing for me every day the way you do. I’ve got a yahoo group for my college friends.

    I will, however, try this at home, because I am a link sender. I send links to specific people on specific topics. I could see myself creating e-mail lists for specific topics such as the environment, animals, soccer, hockey, corruption, and telecom and mailing links with one click.

  6. Belay my last. I must have missed a checkbox (checked by default) that sends invites out to all your contacts when you press submit.
    Billy, I recommend making those 2 separate steps.

  7. Thought I would give this a try as I usually use the super easy GMail-This extension to send interesting links.
    Unfortunately, when I told Downfly to import my contacts, they proceeded to spam every single person in my address book without asking. I had to immediately sent an apology (compounding the issue, I know) to each. Bad form, Downfly.

  8. I could effectively whatever this Application does with either, Digg or Firefox’s ‘Send Link’. This App would want me to again create a ‘Link Share’ Community again.

  9. Other than the social networking aspect, I’m trying to figure out how this is more useful than the “Send Link” menu command (File/Send Link) built in to Firefox? It’s also available on the context menu, allowing you to send a link embedded in the page.

    The pitch for this company must have sounded awfully similar to the movie pitch embedded in Robert Altman’s “The Player”!

  10. GIven how many links i email to all the contributors to our various sites, it is something i actually have come to like. i think it starts to make sense after a couple of days. hopefully you guys will give it some breathing room, and try it.

    i would love to hear your experience.

  11. I saw this one about a month ago and I couldn’t help but think it was a solution looking for a problem. It’s not exactly hard cutting and pasting a link into an email, and if you were a power link sender, you’d be using a social bookmarking site anyway. Nice tech but I’m not convinced about the idea. Having said that the long tail is long enough to support it I guess :-)

  12. How is this that different from checking if you your friends also “Dugg” a link you sent them?

    I don’t usually want my friends sending me links. Sure I “Spam” my site to Onlywire, but truthfully I don’t want people spamming me with links. The few times I send a link to someone it is because they requested it or I am certain they were interested in it.

    I think you summed it up “bookmarking services that litter the tech landscape”.

    I don’t want to be Pownced, Twittered, Stumbled and “Buried” in book marks.

    Linked in has it mostly right. If I can’t find what I’m looking for I ask a question on linked in and I can guarantee that I will get 3-5 well thought out quality answers.

    If I want Content links to fill my time I will go out to a site that aggregates stories I would be interested in. That is what Blogs are, or used to be. I could go read Scoble and get links that interested me, a little conversation and then hop over to a different niche site for the other things I wanted.

    I think this was all easier before people tried to make it easier.