Parallel: an ad-free, user-first social network. ~ Now in development ~


#1

Hi everyone! A while back, I introduced an idea for a social network called Parallel. For those of you who responded to my requests for interviews, thank you for your patience – I’ll be reaching out soon!

Today, I’m pleased to announce that Parallel has launched a new website.
Here is a quick overview of the project:

As we have all seen, there is a growing demand for a viable alternative to our current generation of attention-driven social networks. Parallel started as a collection of thoughts and ideas on creating a “better” social network – a network that puts the user first; that isn’t driven by eyeballs and ad revenue, and that provides the community at large with greater tools for autonomy and time well spent.

The criteria for creating a viable alternative is formidable. But we know what we’re up against, and we believe in creating a platform focused on user autonomy and well-being. Our iOS app is now in development.

A quick look at some Parallel features:

  • No ads, no algorithms: you deserve a distraction-free, in-the-order-it-was-posted experience.
  • Free, high-quality core experience focused on what matters: connecting with and meeting people, developing relationships, and sharing interests.
  • Zero tolerance for bots, harassment, and hate speech.
  • Personalize the app through Addons: optional upgrades that give you access to advanced features and styles.

If you are interested in a demo, I would be more than happy to arrange something! We need all the feedback we can get. :smile: In the meantime, here are other ways you can help:

  1. Tell us what you think – your thoughts and feedback are critical to the success of the project. What are we getting right? What are we getting wrong?
  2. Sign up for early access – we want to start building a community of people who are interested in the idea.
  3. Take a short survey – help us with our ongoing market validation efforts.
  4. Support our devs – to help raise money for the project, we are selling some exclusive items like hats, shirts, etc.

We’ve also just started posting as @meetparallel on both Instagram and Twitter – video coming soon!


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#2

Thank you Scott! This looks absolutely wonderful in concept, refined and excellently executed. It makes me really happy to see this. It’s an inspiring example of American innovation!

I would think that you’re already ready to raise money by the look of things, but I understand that maybe donations and bootstrapping would let you keep control of the project.

One aspect that I’m not sure about is your feature to meet new people. I know many people on this forum including @aschrijver have been interested in making a social network to help people meet others in their communities, but I’m not sure its a good idea.

I think that making connections with strangers opens up the network to bad behaviour, fake news, trolls, many problems. May I suggest you don’t allow any strangers or brands including companies, politicians and nonprofits onto your social network. Only allow connections between real people your users already know – the way to validate that would be to ask your users if they personally know the connections they’re adding. Also only allow users to join a group if they know someone personally in the group.

I know this is a big change from your current idea, but it could offer many benefits. The focus could be to privately communicate and share photos between people who already know each other. In this way you can get new users to ask their real life contacts to join, something which wouldn’t be important if it were about connecting with strangers. And with only people who know each other, the quality of the content would be higher since there would be no brands or Russian trolls. You’d also be able to sell things such as photo albums etc that are more important to people who actually know each other.

My next suggestion is that privacy must be a central feature. No public sharing, no public visibility of anything, no tracking, no saving of history, easy deletion of all content, no “contacts syncing”, and so on. Privacy alone could sell the entire network.

Good luck!


#3

Thanks for the heads-up. It looks interesting and promising as copy, but of course at the same time that is what has immortalized the term “vaporware” in Silicon Valley… “in development” is a euphemism for “it doesn’t exist” with the added plus of marketing for it.

I think you’re very wise to solicit as much early feedback as possible to evolve the product. I would just respectfully suggest that you be careful to not let the marketing get way too far ahead of anything that yet exists. I’ve been through a lot of hype cycles on new ventures where that comes back to hurt… hard.


#4

@Free, @greg, thank you for your responses and perspective. Your excellent feedback is exactly why we wanted to show Parallel to this community first!

A couple thoughts.

We believe it’s important to have both an “indoor” (people I know) and “outdoor” (people I don’t know) experience on social media, and we also recognize there is something of a spectrum between the two. Parallel is designed to give you better control over this distinction through features like rich privacy controls, public/private user communities, and support for multiple accounts.

The mission of Parallel to create a viable, user-first alternative to the current generation of ad-driven social networks. We believe in maintaining an appropriate balance between marketing hype and tangible progress. For us, community feedback isn’t just a strategy for developing a decent product – organic, community driven growth and development is a core value for us. We believe that social media should be a more democratic experience than it is today.

What we are focusing on now is A) proving demand, B) gathering feedback, and C) testing an early access version of the app with alpha and beta groups.

Thanks again for your thoughts, I hope to hear more!


#5

Last month I joined a new social network, and within the past week something odd happened: I got a dozen friend requests from men I don’t know. This seems awfully peculiar, as if the URL for my profile page had been scribbled on the wall of some public place. In trying to find out how these men came across my page, I did a couple of searches, one for “new members” and the other for my ethnicity. The latter produced a bunch of surprises, including members who belong to something called The Bunny Hop, a business specializing in certain “services.”

In making things more democratic, please keep in mind the welfare of women. I don’t know what kinds of design rules this would translate into. All I’m asking is that you try. Thank you :slight_smile:


#6

Hi @scottcapener, it’s really exciting to see something like this being built. I’m not an iOS users, but I’ll be watching your platform as it matures and I’d be eager to test out an desktop version.

I was wondering why you have committed to “Free Forever” though. I’d love to see a paradigm change where people don’t mind paying for great things that have been built for them to enjoy. Keeping things free has also lead to the intense advertising strategies we see today too. So it would be nice to see a social media site that is simply pay to use.

I’m sure you’ve thought carefully about this, so I’d be interested to hear your reasons.

Thanks,
Ben


#7

@patm Thank you for sharing your experience! This is a priority for us building Parallel. We know the internet is not all sunshine and rainbows, and we know certain groups, unfortunately, tend to bear the brunt of poor behavior online. Women, POC, LGBTQA+, and other groups are often disproportionately targeted by harassment. We are already working on policies and tools to help these groups (and everyone else) have a more hospitable experience. I would love to go over these in greater detail in the future and hear your thoughts!

In the meantime, would you be willing to take our short survey if you haven’t already? Thanks!!


@benrules2 Thank you! We are absolutely planning on Android and web versions of the service in the future – we’re still a growing company, so we appreciate your patience. :slight_smile: Would you be willing to take our short survey as well, if you haven’t already?

I agree that many people are generally willing to pay for great products and services. We are interested in exploring this as an option for Parallel – for you, what would make it “great?” And what would you generally expect to pay for it?


#8

Survey completed! As for what would make it great, just offering a paid platform that provides all the same basic communication tools Facebook/ google plus do would be enough for me. A public forum (like a “news feed”), a private messaging feature, and some organization tools. Not being the product but still communicating with my friends would be very compelling. I would expect to pay up to $10 per month for something like that.

Going even further and (more eccentric), I’d love to see a company experimenting with social networks to enrich communication and attempt to enrich conversation. For example introduce ways to read moods of users and feel empathy, maybe through opt-in biometrics like heart rate monitor tracking and visual queues when it varies from the baseline. This is a very hard area to be creative in though! Jaron Lanier’s “You are Not a Gadget” has some pretty cool comments on this describing how quickly people adapt to having tails or 8 legs in virtual reality, which expands the human experience.


#9

Many thanks for your reply. Greatly appreciated.

I looked at the survey but would, if you don’t mind, like to compose a thoughtful response instead. Will try to do that over the next few days.


#10

hi
How are you going to make money?

And who will decide harassment, and hate speech, people with Democratic or Republican views?


#11

@benrules2 Awesome, thank you! Great thoughts - I love your ideas about technology, empathy, and enriching the human experience. I’ll have to check out Lanier for sure.

@patm Greatly appreciated. Looking forward to your thoughts!

@geo Great questions! I will attempt to answer:

  1. Parallel’s business model is designed to serve users first (as opposed to advertisers or large corporations). Not everyone uses social media the same way - you should be able customize the way your social media apps work. One way we make money is by offering a growing library of low-cost, optional app upgrades. Think of it like an App Store for social features - themes, styles, disappearing posts, custom notification settings, etc. These Addons give you the ability to build a unique, personalized social experience that works for you.

People also enjoy spending money on their friends - we’re exploring other ideas like subscribing to creators, tipping systems, and supporting microbrands.

  1. We are aware that content moderation is one of the biggest and most important issues facing social media today. Addressing these concerns is a priority at Parallel. You deserve a healthy online experience, free from the toxicity of harassment, threats, abuse, and hateful langauge. We are developing neutral, human-focused policies and tools to better manage detection, protection, reporting, removal, and accountability for these situations.

#12

Great answers, Scott!

A few hasty responses, with more to be said later:

  1. You also could offer members the ability to make gifts to friends on birthdays, special occasions.
  2. It would be good to aim high: past politics and toward humanities principles. Here is an excerpt on preserving liberal arts education that I found in the National Review, a conservative publication I don’t read but came across in the search for something else:

The debate over free speech on college campuses is symptomatic of a deeper problem: Many colleges have abandoned the core liberal-arts commitment to pursue truth about the human condition. Liberal arts –whether literature, history, or philosophy — have become attenuated. Certain disciplines are now heavily politicized, and core curricula have been dismantled in favor of an à la carte approach to class selection, as the American Council of Trustees and Alumni has documented.

So, how would renewing the liberal arts help our democracy? For one thing, an honest pursuit of truth cultivates intellectual curiosity — and curiosity, it turns out, breaks through ideological polarization.

Research by Dan Kahan of Yale University demonstrates how people who possess curiosity about scientific and evidentiary matters are more likely to fairly consider viewpoints that differ with their own (something most of us don’t do). A liberal education should cultivate this type of curiosity within students instead of handing them narrow and politicized lenses through which to see the world. Studying history, literature, and philosophy should make students less certain they have all the answers to perennial questions and more eager to inquire, learn, and debate big ideas about a good and just society.

:slight_smile:


#13

tanks for answer

This is similar to how online games earn money. When the game is free but you have to pay for good extra ammunition. The problem for me as a user, with this model is that for example in an online game without buying better ammunition you will probably be killed at the beginning of the game. And in your case how you will make me to buy extra “Addons”? You will have to worsen your Parallel for me in order that I would have the sense and desire to buy extra “Addons”. You see, you already don’t think about my interests. You think how to get me to buy extra “Addons” , for the profit and survival of the YOUR company.

I thought the 90s ended when people opened the internet company with a little understanding how the company will make money in the future, or you have unlimited budget?

For example, if I am against immigration, LGBT, abortions and other liberal values, will I be able to freely express my thoughts and beliefs and agitate for them other people?


#14

Excellent questions, @geo, thank you.

The mission of Parallel is to create a sustainable, humane alternative to the social networks we have today. We do need to make money to operate, of course – but we have deliberately chosen a business model that ties us to user wellbeing, rather than maximizing the time spent using our products. We are fully aware this path may not lead to the same kind of valuations we see in today’s social media giants, and that’s okay!

Yes, this business model puts us more in the realm of “free-to-play” or “freemium.” This means that some of our more exciting features will cost money to use. That being said, we are committed to providing a high-quality free experience. The goal is to help users create a space where they feel comfortable, respected, and in control. Parallel Addons will provide value by extending your personal experience, not by dinging you for essential functionality.

We understand that freedom of speech, as it relates to online platforms, is an important, complex issue. We want Parallel to be a place where friends, family, and strangers can engage in a vibrant, healthy discourse regarding issues, topics, and experiences that are important to them. We believe in protecting our users’ freedom of speech and expression. We also believe users should be held accountable for harassment, threats, abuse, and hate speech.

To everyone who has signed up or taken a survey so far, thank you so much!! Video soon!


#15

Great thoughts, @patm, thank you! We recently sat down to identify some “brand values” for Parallel, and curiosity was one of them. :wink: Some of my background is in edtech, and I would love to discuss further ways to encourage a love of learning in social interactions.


A better social network (inspiration, research, opinions?)
#16

Fantastic! You focused on the word I wanted you to: curiosity.

When I read the National Review article from which I quoted, I was surprised and pleased to see I agreed with the author. Such things give me hope that we can all communicate better.

Core values, ethics, etc. are good starting points for discussion and for addressing social issues.

BTW, I really like the name Parallel; good choice.


#17

Going back to your survey: it might be fine for casual users, but for people like me, it doesn’t allow expression of the range and depth of social-media experience. Here are the ways in which I use social media:

  1. Build a following for the university journal I help manage.
  2. Develop a good reputation–and cultivate goodwill–for my small business.
  3. Indulge my creative side (writing, design, photography). The tools at Mewe.com are excellent for creativity.
  4. Stay in touch with friends far away, one of whom is disabled and a virtual shut-in.

Parallel might look into ways it can also serve the disabled community. That would be a way to grow your business in a socially useful way.

Another thought: why I like the name Parallel. It makes me think of lives that are lived in parallel, that aim toward common goals, e.g., being aware, ethical, responsible. I like the idea of all these lives driving society in good, healthy directions.

Re @benrules2’s comments: I’d also like to try out a desktop version if one becomes available, and I would also be willing to pay. Perhaps a portion of revenues could be devoted to charities, which would encourage people to join.


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#18

Thank you so much for helping us to a new app like this!
I saw the website and the app is easy to use. I hope the app can be downloaded also for Android.