Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

37 Signals Highrise Released

Category: Prototype, Rails, Showcase

37 Signals has released Highrise, a “shared contact manager and task list”. Basecamp is about projects. Highrise is about people.

There is a healthy amount of Ajax used, but not in a flashy way. You will find a lot of inline editing, and sections expanding and contracting allowing you to get a lot of work done in a small area (as apposed to bouncing between pages).

All in all it looks very much like other 37 Signals products, and there are some subtle differences. I noticed that they are getting CSS/JavaScript from different subdomains now.

In the past you would see “/javascript/application.js” whereas now you see “http://asset1.highrisehq.com/stylesheets/print/application.css?1174401102” so I wonder if the architecture is slightly changed, and what their reason was for making this explicit.

You will see an “Add Person” button all over. Clicking on that has the page getting taken over with a form to add your buddy (and doesn’t take you to the /person/create page). It doesn’t appear that the back button has been hacked here, so if you hit back expecting to go to the page before you clicked on add person, you will go back a page.

The only slightly disappointment was how the free account is really bare bones. You don’t get any of the cool features such as cases, and 25 contacts is pretty meaningless. I also noticed that when you signup the order of accounts had flipped. Subtle. Of course, I do not blame them for trying to sell accounts and make money. All power to them.

They are creating a nice portfolio of products. I am interested to see if they will integrate more (they do a good job with integrating writeboard / basecamp / chats) both within their own product line, and even more so with email (they do a good job at letting you email the system).

Finally, I see a large whole out there. I want a contacts/address book service that lives up in the cloud, that I can use an API to talk too. I don’t want to type in my contacts more than once. On the Mac my apps share the address book, and I want the same on the web.


Posted by Dion Almaer at 12:06 pm

2.7 rating from 25 votes


Comments feed TrackBack URI

FYI, the asset-host thing is built into Rails now (see http://dev.rubyonrails.org/changeset/6161).

Comment by Scott Raymond — March 20, 2007

And the http://asset%.highrisehq.com are no doubt mapped to Amazon S3.

Comment by Andy — March 20, 2007

>>And the http://asset%.highrisehq.com are
>> no doubt mapped to Amazon S3.

Not necessarily, unless they’ve figured out a way to do virtual hosting with S3 and SSL (or their buddy Jeff gave em a hand).

Comment by boodie — March 20, 2007

I imagine mapping the assets to different domains is for better load times, to get around the 2 connections per domain limit or w/e it is?

Comment by Brad Harris — March 20, 2007

Normally you would do assest hosting so you either can use a CDN, or have the flexibility to go with a CDN down the road. If you have a strict path of /public/images, it will cause pain down the road when you want to offload images to a CDN to scale.

Comment by Rob Sanheim — March 20, 2007

Andy, I think you are wrong about that.

A simple DNS lookup reveals that asset1.highrisehq.com points to – which is used by 37 Signals via RackSpace. Using S3 here would probably cause them more headaches than just running a static asset server.

Comment by Philip Plante — March 20, 2007

assets1-4 just points to the /public/ on the one server (or in their case probably some load balanced cluster)

So, 4 asset servers, 1 for regular pages – IE: 9 connections at a time, FF: 17 connections (think the default is 4)

if you use firefox, try turning on pipelining and see how insanely fast stuff loads (and also goes crazy and breaks some sites).


Is a great idea, if you let rails generate all your asset html tags for you.

Comment by boodie — March 20, 2007

I like it

Comment by Dan — March 20, 2007

this is exactly the service i have been looking for. However, the import features are severely lacking. What If I have a contact DB i need to import?! I don’t want to add people individually by uploading vcards.

Comment by josh — March 20, 2007

I’m sure an API will be coming soon. The rails community has been spending the last year building awesome rest API support.

Comment by rick — March 20, 2007

Boodie is correct. It is to get around the connection limitation and speed up load times. Here are some links for anyone interested:


Comment by NICCAI — March 20, 2007

Would you prefer CSV? If so would you prefer that in addition to vcard or is vcard unnecessary if you have CSV? The reason I ask is we released a CRM back in december and we are going through our first group of feature additions. Anyhow we are getting a very mixed bag of “I need vCard” and “Don’t put in vcard” in our survey.

Comment by Ben — March 20, 2007

Ohh.. Sorry that response was to Josh, I miss read the comment line.

Comment by Ben — March 20, 2007

Highrise doesn’t use S3, but it is possible to store the files on S3, and use an EC2 host to serve the files via SSL. Keep in mind that bandwidth overage charges through Rackspace are very high compared to Amazon’s rates, so it would make sense for sites with large amounts of static content. I doubt Highrise falls into that category though.

Using S3/EC2 is more of a headache compared to just serving the files through a standard fast front-end server. However most Rails apps are deployed in an nearly fully automated manner, so its not like it’ll cause headaches beyond the inital (relatively easy) setup. If the cost to setup is less than the bandwidth charges then its a no-brainer.

Comment by Dan Kubb — March 20, 2007

Thanks for the write-up. The funny thing about the 25-limit is that most of us at 37signals have been using a personal Highrise account for months in addition to the shared company account. On our personal accounts, we’re all still under the 25-contact limit.

I use Highrise to track conversations with my doctor, lawyer, accountant, mechanic, dentist, a few Rails partners, some journalists, and a few others. All fits well under the 25-contact limit.

The key feature of Highrise is not storing your contact information in the sky (I rarely even bother to fill that out), but rather to track your conversations and tasks with people where tracking matters (ie, not your mates dinner on Friday, but your last repair at the mechanic or that your deliverables for taxes is due next week).

On a technical note, we use multiple asset hosts to get around the connection limit. We don’t use S3 for assets, but we do use it for file uploads.

Comment by DHH — March 21, 2007

Depending on what program you use to keep your contacts – you should be able to export multiple contacts as a single vCard. I did this from my Address Book and it worked like a charm.

Comment by Jake Ingman — March 21, 2007

Highrise looks to be a interesting product. They do seem to have ease of use down, but might be limited by a lack of features.

A true contact manager it is not. Highrise is more of a ‘People Wiki’. They are missing way to many features to make it useful for a sales team or small business.

If I may add a shameless plug, Big Contacts http://www.bigcontacts.com is in an open beta right now, and launching on April 1st. Up to 500 contacts and 3 users for Free. And a complete contact manager functionality. Might be worth looking at/writing about.

Comment by Paul Freet — March 21, 2007

Information explosion! Right there on the page. BigContacts hurts my eyes. In future, only plug things that don’t hurt my eyes.

Comment by Dan — March 21, 2007

Alright Dan, tell me if heap (http://heap.wbpsystems.com/) hurts your eyes.

In all seriousness, I would really appreciate people’s opinions about the whole vCard /CSV thing that I asked Josh about.

Comment by Ben — March 21, 2007

Tried Highrise. It was ok. At my firm we use BaseCamp for most projects, I doubt we will adopt Highrise in its present form…


Comment by Chad — April 21, 2007

My boss loves it.

Comment by zoli — October 13, 2007

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