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May 26, 2015

Fountain Help Service Debuts WebRTC-based Web Chat

The Fountain startup debuted its help service in March this year. It began offering advice from experts in the fields of home improvement and beauty through text, voice, and video handled in iOS. The company's big recent announcement shows that it has expanded to the Web and will now offer video chat through WebRTC in any browser that supports that protocol.

Of course, that reaches all users of Chrome and Firefox. Those users will also begin to have access to a whole new range of help topics through the introduction of personalized expert pages in which those experts -- vetted by Fountain -- can set their own rates and offer advice for any topic.

A review of the new features at FastCompany.com shows that, in the past, Fountain worked entirely by using a search engine to match clients with their own experts. A user could use the iOS app to ask a question about home improvement or beauty and expect to reach someone who could help them with their specific issues. Those experts get a 70 percent cut of the normal rate of $7 per 15 minutes.

The experts who host their own pages are at somewhat of a disadvantage because that matching service does not connect users to those help pages. However, when users search for their own experts, they can accept the rates the experts set and then allow those individuals to make a 90 percent cut of their rate.

Aside from the rates themselves, Fountain appears to have a jump on other competitive services because of its matching algorithm and manner in which users are charged. The rate of $7 per 15 minutes is unique because it takes the pressure away from clients who may otherwise feel the need to ask questions quickly or provide a mountain of details in one go. It allows conversations between customers and experts to form naturally because there is no pressure to get everything done in just a couple of minutes. Furthermore, the base timespan allows for questions to flow as customers explain their issues with their own voices and show their problems through advanced features of the app and Web chat.

Users can turn around their phones to show, for instance, the exact issue they are have with their deck's railing or interview outfit. The app also has a feature that provides a drawing board for photos so users can show problems rather than have to verbally describe them.

The Fountain vetting process takes about half an hour. After that, experts can set up their pages in about three minutes with a listing of their services, available hours, rates, and links to social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Fountain handles all the tracking of time spent during calls so experts are paid correctly and customers can get everything they hoped out of the service.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson
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