We joined the VZ project to help in preparing a completely new network for the relaunch. Our original work on some features, testing, and adjustments evolved as we identified issues that needed to be addressed. Over 9 months, we entered full product recovery mode and helped take VZ to a beta version that could be safely relaunched.
Now, back with 8 million former accounts, a fresh approach, and a focus on group activity, VZ aims to cover a new market for social media where many users are dissatisfied with Facebook's commercial attitude towards private data.
StudiVZ, one of the first and most popular European social networks, was established in 2005 to connect students with classmates. It became hugely popular and had 17 million registered users within Germany at its peak. Like many other local networks, Studi began to decline in popularity, when Facebook overtook worldwide markets. In 2020, StudiVZ returned as VZ: a purely group-centered social network that restores the "social" element of virtual connections with high empathy on users’ private sphere.
The challenge with the VZ project was that the scope of our work rapidly changed right from the outset. What was supposed to be minor features and correction work soon revealed underlying issues that we knew needed to be taken care of if the platform were to be successful.
We had to use our technical expertise to rectify the web application and our business sense to understand the goals of VZ and find the right technology to fulfill them.
When we changed to ValueLogic, I started working very closely with the programmers—both on the backend and frontend. They included me in how the technology works and gave a lot of helpful input to improve VZ wherever they could.
Agneta Binninger CEO at VZ Networks
Our love of technical challenges and proven skills helped us find the best technological solution, while our dynamic and agile work processes kept everything running on time
Our approach was to assess and test the key elements for the client’s business model: performance, customer experience, functionality, and user data security.
We began our work on the VZ project from a static code analysis and we defined smoke tests. The code review showed us that business functions could not be fulfilled by the current state of product development. We also found performance to be lacking and showed that the application was not prepared for heavy user traffic, which is vital to the success of a social media portal.
Data migration and security were also lacking, as we calculated that it would take two years to use the system in place to transfer existing user data from the old site to the new version. A logical error also showed up that threatened data security.
Knowing what we were faced with, we could set to work finding the solution.
VZ is a web application with a modern tech stack. The project's infrastructure is based on AWS and its services - such as ECS, RDS, DynamoDB, SQS, and SNS - with some support from Lambda for side tasks. For real-time experience, which is essential in social networks, chats and notifications are handled by Firebase. The main application is written in PHP with Symfony framework to provide security and reliability but also easy development. Search functionalities are supported by Elasticsearch. We also reconfigured or solved issues with VZ third-party integrations such as Doodle, Google Maps, Tag Manager, Giphy, and Zendesk.
In close cooperation with the German part of the team, we solved VZ’s critical performance issues, significantly improved service efficiency, and handled portal security. After 9 months of intense work, it was stable and ready to be launched to a German user base. The response was huge, with 750 media reports published and a reach of more than 100 M views. Many reporters even tested the new VZ and had no criticism from a technical perspective.
"The priority was to address the client's business needs using technology. To achieve this, we not only tried to understand the business objectives of VZ, but also used our previous experience in building bridges between business and technology" - says Andrzej Samek, Team Leader.
"The opportunity to participate in such a large scale project is always a great occasion to both test one’s skills and learn something new. Working with VZ brings us great recognition but the project also brought us also a lot of personal satisfaction" – Piotr, one of the programmers involved in the project.
"I really like the motivation of the team. We worked in a small environment, communicated on a daily basis about progress, and collaborated very closely. I can certainly list high quality of work, reliability, and transparency as the elements that make up an efficient project" - Agneta Binninger CEO at VZ Networks