Sometimes the startup stars appear to align. Snapchat, now valued in the Billions, ushered in the concept of ephemeral messaging, where each message self destructs shortly after the recipient has opened it. An idea that Facebook unsuccessfully cloned with its own app Poke.
Meanwhile, TechCrunch contributor Andrew Keen has been arguing for a while that the Internet needs to learn to forget. And just a few weeks ago, the European Court of Justice appeared to agree, ruling that, in certain circumstances relating to a person’s privacy, search engines like Google must respect the “right to be forgotten”.
Enter Voycee, a shiny new mobile-first social network that eats itself, almost literally. Every time you post a new status update or share new content on the service, your previous post vanishes without a trace.
Never mind how this flies in the face of conventional monetisation thinking — where data equals dollars — there’s something refreshingly upstart-y about the idea. But, with the service free for consumers forever, according to founder Ilfan Radoncic, never before has the mantra ‘acquire users first and figure out how to monetise them later’ felt so true. More on that below.
On the surface, the iOS app (with web and Android versions to follow) doesn’t bring anything new to the social networking table. It offers the usual social network features, primarily the ability to share and follow status updates, photos, videos, audio files, and other forms of social media. However, where it deviates is in its history-free nature. Voycee only retains your latest post. The next time you post, your previous update is completely deleted from the network.
This not only has obvious pro-privacy implications but it will also presumably raise the bar of what is worth posting in the first place, since every new update wipes the previous, including any ‘Likes’ or comments. This really is a social network that lives in the moment. How long that moment lasts, however, is entirely down to how often and how much you post.
And there’s also a rather clever knock-on effect. If the idea of Voycee resonates, it’s likely users will check the app often so as not to miss out on any of their friends’ updates. Blink and it’s too late.
“Voycee is all about protecting your privacy, you have zero history with us,” explains Radoncic. “Many social networks try to collect as much data from you as possible to store onto their servers, plaster their ads all over them and eventually sell your data to other data collection agencies.”
He’s also, unsurprisingly, keen to highlight the damage that a social media footprint can do to a person’s future opportunities, a phenomenon that is likely to exist until we all adhere to ‘he who throws the first stone’ and accept that young and foolish is the norm.
“Social media has hurt many people in the past, whether it be applying for college or a job and the potential schools and employers have looked up your social media accounts and what you’re posting and have made judgements,” says Radoncic. “We want you to have all the fun you can have on social media without worrying how your past posts can be used against you.”
Lastly, on the thorny issue of monetisation — a problem far in the future, with the app only amassing a few thousands users to date — Voycee’s founder, who owns and runs interactive agency 6th Sense Interactive and is bootstrapping the startup, says he isn’t currently too worried about making money.
“Since we don’t store any of your previous posts, we have the advantage of keeping our servers as small as possible while other social networks build bigger and bigger data centers,” he says. “We can certainly go the route other social networks are going, with promoted posts, recommended users and ads in your feed but will certainly try to stay away from that as users hate ads and we promise this will always be a free social network for users.”
Instead, Radoncic thinks offering brands/celebrities better tools to use with Voycee might be one option, should the service take off, or providing analytics on how many users are viewing the latest post or giving businesses additional post types.
“But again, its more to give people the freedom of speech on this network and not worry about how much money we can make from this,” he adds.