If you've ever loaned money to roommates and friends, then you know the true meaning of the old saying: payback is a . . . well, let's just say it isn't always easy to figure out who owes what to whom. Even when you are a well-intentioned borrower, things can get confusing -- a dollar here, a third of the rent there, half of the week's groceries. . the list goes on. Ashwin Bharambe, Amit Manjhi, and Shashank Pandit (all computer science students in the PhD program at Carnegie Mellon) started Buxfer (think "bucks" and "transfer") to add some method to the borrowing-and-lending madness within their own circle of friends. Buxfer started out as a script that Ashwin wrote for his own use, but after making lots of copies of the script for friends, the team thought they could do something bigger.
The result was a single web-based application that makes tracking shared bills and expenses very simple. Launched in late September 2006, Buxfer has over 9,000 users and has tracked over 15,000 total transactions totaling about $3M (The team is working on the ability to do the actual transactions -- stay tuned.) To make it even simpler to get started in the system, they leveraged Browser-Based Authentication (BBAuth) to allow their users who already have Yahoo! IDs to log in and get down to business immediately.
To review, BBAuth makes it possible for applications that you build to use data stored by users at Yahoo! (with their explicit permission, of course). Yahoo! currently has 208 MILLION registered Yahoo! users, so the benefits of building BBAuth-powered applications are huge. Back in October, Matt McAlister and Dan Thuerer produced a screencast that runs through some of the finer details, so be sure to check it out.
The Buxfer team's experience demonstrates the power of BBAuth in a nascent startup where getting new users is key. For the Buxfer team, implementing BBAuth was a simple way for them to serve users with Yahoo! IDs by allowing them to experience the site without the hassle of new registration -- just enter your Yahoo! credentials, and you're in the system. It's not surprising to us then that BBAuth is the most popular third-party login option for Buxfer, and as the folks at Menuism (another BBAuth-powered startup we're proud of) said on their blog: "it's easy as pie" to put in place (almost 70% of Menuism's new signups use BBAuth!)
From an implementation standpoint, the team told me that BBAuth was very easy to roll out in their PHP-based environment with the help of the BBAuth Quickstart Package that we provide, which includes classes for PHP4 and PHP5. (For you Rails fans out there, Cameron Walters at Rubyred Labs built a plugin that he used at our Open Hack Day -- check it out!)
The Buxfer story is really just in the opening chapters. Until December, the team was building Buxfer in their spare time, but they recently incorporated and received funding from Paul Graham's YCombinator as part of their winter round of funding. Ashwin, Shashank, and Amit are are going to take a leave from their Ph.D. programs to work full-time on Buxfer. Congrats, guys!
If you want to make it easier for the vast universe of registered Yahoo! users to use your web application and chase the dream of building your own startup, BBAuth is clearly an accelerator -- and we want you to step on the gas. Get started with BBAuth today and let us know about your experience and what features you would like for us to include in the comments.
- Chad Dickerson