Archive for July, 2007

One more thing…. Browser Snapshot and file attachments

July 25, 2007

There’s one feature of the new Wesabe Firefox Uploader that’s worth a separate mention: Browser Snapshot.

If you’ve ever bought anything or paid any bill online, you know that at the end of the checkout process, you get a page with a confirmation number that says, “Please print this page for your records.” Like a fool, I used to do that all the time, and now I have a closet full of folded-up printouts that I almost never look at again — unless a dispute comes up, I need to file an expense report, or when tax time rolls around. The times when I have needed those printouts, they’ve been invaluable, but printing them, storing them, and finding them again has always been a huge pain.

snapshotThe Firefox Uploader adds a new feature to Wesabe designed to make storing receipts and confirmation pages much easier. In the Firefox Uploader, you can select the Browser Snapshot feature whenever you land on one of those receipt pages. The Uploader will take a full screenshot for you, then let you upload the screenshot directly to your Wesabe account. Once the transaction hits your account, you can attach the screenshot to the transaction with a single click, and it will be stored along with your account records. If you ever need that receipt, just search your accounts and there the full receipt page is.

Of course, you shouldn’t have to be using Firefox to do this, so we’ve added file attachments to every transaction. Just click “Advanced” under the transaction edit, and you can upload any file related to that transaction to the site (2MB max per file, 1GB max per user). During testing, we’ve found great uses for this — travel receipts to make expense reports easier, product manuals in PDF form, even menus from the restaurants you visited.

(Because of the way our privacy wall works, attachments are currently stored on disk in unencrypted form. We’re planning an update shortly to correct this, and when we launch it, any attachments you’ve uploaded will automatically be encrypted. We wanted to make sure to get this out with the Firefox Uploader release, but we also want to build the encryption feature taking full advantage of the protections the privacy wall offers, and that will take a little more time.)

We’ve been using file attachments internally for a while now, and it’s a great feature for cleaning up clutter and making it dead simple to get organized. Give it a try, either with the Firefox Uploader or just using the web site directly, and you’ll see how helpful it can be.

The Wesabe Firefox Uploader

July 25, 2007

We’ve just launched a great new feature to make uploading your data to Wesabe a ton easier — but not just that. Along the way we’ve improved just about every aspect of getting your accounts into Wesabe.

This marks the first release of the Wesabe Firefox Uploader. The Firefox Uploader is an extension for Firefox 2.0 or later, which makes it trivially easy to automate downloads from your bank or credit card, whether or not your bank makes that easy for you to do. If your bank doesn’t already provide automated downloads, you can record a download session once, and the Firefox Uploader will then play your recording back automatically for you from then on. And, you still get all of the benefits of the original desktop Uploader — you don’t have to give Wesabe your bank passwords or account numbers, which remain safe on your own computer.

Why do we think the Firefox Uploader is better? The list of reasons is pretty long…

  • Almost any account, anywhere around the world, can be automated. Up until now, about 80% of the United States bank and credit card accounts on Wesabe have had automated upload — where the desktop Uploader would update your new transactions every day without you having to do anything. For people in other countries, and for people in the U.S. with smaller banks or credit unions, the experience was much more manual — you had to log in to your bank site and download a data file every time you wanted to update your Wesabe accounts. Now, in just a few minutes, you can automate any bank that supports one of our import formats (OFX, QFX, QIF, OFC, Quicken, or Microsoft Money), without having to wait for us to automate it for you. Since Wesabe supports thousands of banks in over 30 countries, this makes automation available to many more people. (Note, accounts that require a different login each time you visit, such as one-time-password systems, won’t work with the current extension, but we’re working on that, too.)
  • Supports Windows, Mac, and Linux. Since the Firefox Uploader runs on any platform Firefox supports, this means that Linux users can have automated uploads just as easily as Windows and Mac users.
  • New versions update automatically. Firefox extensions have a built-in way to check for new versions and install them when you start Firefox. You no longer have to check to see when a new Uploader release is out — you’ll always get the latest versions with the newest features and fixes.
  • Upload fixes are fast and easy. In the past, if we had set up automation for you and something went wrong (due to a bank change or an error on our side), you’d have to report it to us, and wait for us to fix it and release it. Now, if something goes wrong, you can easily update the automated script yourself in just a few minutes. (If we fix it before you notice, you’ll get our fix, too, of course, but now you’re not stuck waiting on us to get your latest updates into the system.)
  • Older formats can be automated, too. If your bank or credit union provides QIF or OFC downloads only, your account has not been automated, and you’ve had to enter your bank balance every time you upload. Now, you can set it up once and have it be automatic, just as easily as other members.
  • It’s open source. If you want to see whether the Firefox Uploader does what we claim it does, you can, since all of the source code is available.

We think this is a huge improvement in the experience of Wesabe, and we encourage everyone to give the new Firefox Uploader a try. Of course, we know that not everyone uses Firefox (we recommend it, as many other companies do, particularly for its security and privacy protections), and we’re working on similar solutions for people who use other browsers. But if you’ve been thinking about trying Firefox, this might be a great incentive to download it and give it a go. If you’re already using Firefox, dive right in — you’ll be thrilled with the results.

To help you get started, we’ve set up some documentation pages on how to use the new Firefox Uploader, and also a screencast showing how to get it installed and working. Let us know how it works for you, and how we can make it better.

Wesabe in Newsweek

July 18, 2007

NewsweekNice! Newsweek writer Linda Stern gives us a nice write-up in the July 23rd issue of Newsweek (page 61):

There’s a new crop of Web sites for folks who get lonely using Quicken. Social-networking finance sites help members track their money while they kibitz with others to see how they are doing. At wesabe.com (Spanglish for “we know”), financial behavior is shared but identifying details are not. Members can consolidate their financial-account records, chat about shared goals like saving for a car and learn whether they are spending more or less than average on groceries, clothes or beer.

The article is available online here. It’s great to see so many people taking up our ideas and trying out the site. Thanks!

Your bank has a REST API now (shhh! — don't tell them)

July 12, 2007

I’m very happy to announce the launch of the Wesabe API. This is a new release for us, and a new way of using Wesabe — as a tool for getting your data out of your banks and credit cards, and into whatever form or program is going to most help you manage your money. We’re excited and very happy with what possibilities the API creates. (If you don’t know about APIs, there’s a good introduction to the idea at Programmable Web.)

Of course, lots of companies have APIs. What makes ours different?

We already provide a set of tools for automatically uploading your bank and credit card data to the Wesabe site. With the release of this API, we’re adding tools to help you automatically download and manipulate that data, too. As a result, we’re not just providing an API for our own site, but also for all the bank and credit card sites that Wesabe supports, as well. Since Wesabe supports banks and credit cards in over 30 countries around the world, we’re effectively providing developers everywhere a way to unlock data from their financial institutions and put that data to work.

Wesabe is a site that exists in order to change the balance of information — and with information, power — between consumers and the businesses we patronize. As I’ve written before, we believe that businesses know way too much about consumers (where we live, how much we make, our roommates, our magazine subscriptions, and so on), and consumers know way too little about businesses. Our mission is to unlock the power of financial data:

  • for individuals, by freeing that data from the vaults of financial institutions and putting it into the hands of the people who need it and can use it to make their lives better, and
  • for consumers as a community, by pooling our data anonymously and finding the patterns that point the way towards great value and great satisfaction.

We want to take the idea of a credit bureau (where businesses report their experiences with consumers so that other businesses can benefit) and turn it on its head — building instead a value bureau, where consumers can share their experiences with businesses, so all consumers can benefit.

We believe that the best way to get to this goal is by putting that powerful data in the hands of every consumer who wants it. If you’ve been using Excel for years and you have your reports just the way you like them, great: the Wesabe API supports Excel downloads and can be called from within Excel using VBScript. If you’ve developed your own tools already, great: you can use our API to automate download of your data to your own system, and take advantage of our automation work and the community editing the people on Wesabe provide. Or, if you use the Wesabe site all the time but really want a report we don’t yet provide, this is a way to get that for yourself (or, we hope from other developers will to share their work). As the database grows, our ability to make better and better recommendations for great values and financial strategies does, too — no matter what tools people are using.

In a way, it’s almost inconceivable that a bank would open an API. Banks and credit cards make so much of their money from consumers who are bad at managing their own finances. Why make it easy for people to see the problems they can overcome? That’s why we believe Wesabe has a role to play, advocating for consumers and their finances directly, and that’s why we believe that opening an API is different in our industry than others. We’re freeing a set of data that otherwise might have remained locked away.

We’ve posted a set of documentation about the new API at https://www.wesabe.com/page/api, including example code in Ruby, Python, Perl, and Java. Also, we’ve created a Wesabe Group for API developers to get help or ask questions.

Check it out. And let us know how we can make it better. We’re looking forward to seeing what you create.