Campfire (campfirenow.com) is a group chat web application for organizations, working teams and corporations. The application can support up to 100 simultaneous chatters (depending on the plan purchased). In addition, it supports topics and file uploads, and a transcript of each session is kept and can be searched. The initiator of the chat can invite people to the chat via email, which can an include an optional note. The application supports three types of users – Admin, Members and Guests. An admin can add and delete members and guests. A Member can participate in chats and view transcripts. A Guest is granted temporary access and is unable to view transcripts.
The application is entirely web-based, with a dedicated URL for each chat room. Depending on the plan purchased, the Admin can define multiple chat rooms. The URL for the chat room is in the form of yourname.campfirenow.com/room/number, where yourname is a name you specify and number is a number assigned to that unique chat room. There is a convenient top menu bar provided for navigation, with tabs for Lobby, Rooms and Files, Transcripts and Search. The Lobby is where Rooms are defined. Each Room will then have its own tab on the menu bar. Files, Transcripts and Search is where users can access files which have been uploaded, and read and search transcripts.
Campfire is a subsidiary of Chicago-based 37Signals, which also offers other online productivity applications for small, medium and large businesses. 37Signals was founded by Jason Fried, Carlos Segura and Ernest Kim. Jason Fried is currently CEO.
Competition to Campfire comes from sites such as Zoho Chat and Skype. Zoho Chat offers an online service similar to Campfirenow. Skype incorporates the ability to conducts group chat sessions in it's online softphone application. Zoho Chat group chats have a dedicated web address like Campfirenow, Skype group chats do not.
The Campfirenow.com site has a very Web 2.0 look and feel. The site is clean and uncluttered, and is quite responsive. Chat rooms are responsive as well, and update quickly. The chat application performed flawlessly during testing. Navigation of the Campfirenow.com site is intuitive, and page loads happen quickly. There is no advertising displayed on the Campfirenow.com site.
Registration to the Campfire site is free and is required to use the site. For trial purposes, there is a free account, or any of the available plans offers a 30-day free trial. The registration process for the free account asks for full name, email address, password, and a name for the user's chat room web address. Validation of the email address is not required. A free account is limited to 4 chatters and 1 chat room.
Four paid membership plans are available – Basic, Plus, Premium and Max. The Basic plan is limited to 12 chatters and 1GB of file and transcript storage. The Plus plan is limited to 25 chatters and 3GB of storage. The Premium plan allows for 60 chatters and 10GB of storage. The Max plan provides support for up to 100 chatters and 25GB of storage. The Plus, Premium and Max plans also offer enhanced security. Cost of the plans is $12, $24, $49 and $99 per month for the Basic, Plus, Premium and Max plans respectively.
Campfire is recommended to anyone who has a need to conduct group chats. It is ideal for small to large size businesses and organizations. It is especially useful for geographically diverse organizations and companies. All of the features work well, and the transcript function and the ability to upload files greatly enhances usability.