Monday, May 10, 2010

Responses to the latest App Reviews

App reviews for Live Cams are pretty much consistent since the very first release. People tend to give the app either a really good rating or a really bad one. Almost all reviews are based on the expectations that people place on the app. I've found that people who don't expect it to be real are pleasantly surprised and give it a high rating because they are amazed at the possibilities. On the other hand, those that expect to find cameras on their home street or think that the video will come at them in film quality are quite disappointed.

As I often do, here are a few quick facts about the app to quell rumours and false statements by reviewers:
  1. The cameras are real. Nothing is pre-recorded but one or two cameras are configured by the owners to play back 12 hours of footage during the evening (like the Shamu cam at Sea World)
  2. Any camera that is listed as a JPG camera is simply a link to an image on a webpage somewhere. These might be out-of-date if the website doesn't refresh the images very often or the owners are having technical problems resulting in downtime of the system.
  3. The length of time that you are allowed to control the PTZ features of a camera (notably the Axis and Canon devices) is set by the camera owner and not by this app. Live Cams merely asks for control and the camera tells the app when it can control it and for how long.
  4. Live Cams does not control the range of the pan/tilt/zoom features. Again this is set by the camera owner and Live Cams simply reads the settings before displaying the sliders or buttons onscreen.
  5. Public cameras may go offline at any time and are not under our control. Each camera is owned by a different individual or organization and they may choose to disable or password protect a device at any time. We simply remove the dead feeds from our lists every so often when it appears that a particular feed is no longer valid.
  6. The search feature does not search the internet for cameras, this is not possible. The search feature simply scans the embedded database of cameras that we include with the application. We spend hundreds of hours scouring the internet for new cameras and add them to the app as we discover them.
  7. The most popular cameras are getting slower every day. This is due to the number of users viewing them, not the performance of the app. Camera hardware is designed to handle a load of a few dozen viewers at a time and it becomes very slow and unresponsive when there are hundreds or thousands at once. Unfortunately there is nothing we can do about this other than to find new cameras to spread the load. The more successful this application becomes the worse the performance of the existing cameras will be.
We are also finding that there are now a large number of competitors who have stripped our camera database from the binary and have made "copies" of the Live Cams app. Most notably there is iSpy by SKJM and World Cams by EyeSpyFX (for both iPhone and Blackberry). These developers have copied our dataset and sell at a constant $0.99 rate in an attempt to steal our business. Unfortunately this greed has also caused a lot of the cameras to become overwhelmed and unresponsive. We have been attempting to sell our product at $1.99 US so that we would have fewer users but similar profit. This would allow the cameras to remain responsive and handle the load more gracefully over time. Sadly due to the competitive nature of the App Store we have been forced to sell by volume like the others. In the next year I would be surprised to see even half of the current public cameras still available.....