Nattch Wants To Sell A Distraction-Free Social Network

Nattch is a mobile social network for people tired of the digital noise found on mainstream social services — whether it’s ads, memes, animated GIFs, videos of cute cats. Whatever. Point being that stuff can be termed extraneous distraction if the reason you signed up to the service was to learn about your friends’ lives. Not see another trollface meme. Or Taylor Swift GIF.

Yet logging into Facebook pretty much inevitably results in going down the proverbial digital rabbit hole — looking at food photos made by a chef plating junk food to look like fine dining, or watching a video of a chipmunk languorously stretching itself on a divan, followed with a dog that rides on the back of a bike, and a cat perched on a guitar while its owner sings. Not to mention all those ads. Friends? Oh look! A rabbit that snuggles up with a puppy! How cute!

Nattch ejects this type of “garbage” content, as it calls it, encouraging users to share only updates about their actual lives. So no cute, funny or interesting stuff you’ve seen or read on the Internet. That stuff is banned by this regime. There’s even a report button for users to police others’ postings. The idea being to create a ‘clean’ social network that contains only real stuff relating to people’s lives. So kind of like Facebook when Facebook first started.

The bootstrapping startup was actually founded in August 2013 without such a clean proposition, just as a(nother) way to share content. Co-founder Mauri Saavedra, who hails from Bolivia but has based the business in Argentina, says that led to him losing interest in the project. But it was relaunched last month with a new focus on bare bones social networking — and the topical promise of resulting time-savings. (See also: the Apple Watch for promises of technology designed to save time.)

“I was laying on my bed while using Facebook on my iPhone and after spending a couple of minutes browsing my news feed I start noticing that most of the stories I was looking at were random stories, things that I didn’t choose to see and were irrelevant in my life. For every good story there were like six unrelated stories that I didn’t even care about,” says Saavedra.

“It was an epiphany moment, I remember thinking ‘I would love to have a place with only good stories so I can stop looking at this random things that make me waste time’. I was spending a lot of time on my smartphone back then. So I said to myself, Nattch is already built and this is the core idea I was looking for, ‘A social network without garbage’. That’s how it started.”

Nattch is not the first social service to try to grab traction on an anti-Facebook ticket of course. Last fall snagged attention with its ad-free social network — and went on to raise $5.5 million the following month. Earlier this year that alternative social network added the ability to share music and video clips. And it’s still ticking away, offering users an ad-free space for sharing visual content plus status updates.

But Ello is still a bit different to Nattch. The former is filled with the type of content Nattch would dub ‘garbage’. Very pretty looking garbage, for sure. But still a whole lot of extraneous distraction if the mission is to find out is what your friends are actually doing and thinking. Not what they’ve happened to stumble across on the Internet.

So where Ello’s content comes across as rather Pinterest-ish in character, Nattch’s is a whole lot more quotidian. Photos of the view from people’s window as they wake up. Or what they thought of when they walked through the park. Not that there’s much of it as yet — given it’s only just relaunched, and is classing this as a public beta. But bottom line this is a social network that reckons less is more, and personal is better.

The two core rules of Nattch Club are:

  1. Share only things about your life
  2. Do not share garbage

“If you saw a video on the internet that you thought is fun , don’t share it on Nattch. Because it’s not related to your life and your followers might not be interested in it,” explains Saavedra. “If you were walking through a park during vacations and took a photo about the park and beautiful sky of the day. Share it on Nattch, because the photo is about something you are living, and your followers do want to know about what you are living.”

Although Nattch’s focus is on a more personal and real-world type of social sharing (there’s also a location check-in feature, for instance) the app does allow users to post content publicly, where all Nattch users can view it. Or you can share postings to just the people following you — to keep things a little less public.

“We truly recommend users to follow only the few people that matter most in their lives, and if they are not on Nattch to invite them. We don’t want our users to follow 300 or 400 people because their news feed will start to scatter with not really important stories to them. No one truly cares about the life of three hundred people,” adds Saavedra.

That social structure seems a bit less consistent, since Nattch is not offering to be a Path-style limited-only-to-friends social network. You’re still thinking out loud in public on this social network. And thinking in front of some people you won’t know IRL. Which makes it more like Twitter, except everything you post here has to be personal. And that means the frequency of posts will probably be drastically reduced.

Look at your own Twitter feed and count the ratio of personal postings vs third party stuff you’re RTing or just linking to/pointing out. Many people’s skew towards tweeting more of the latter. Still, again, perhaps that’s Nattch’s point. This social network isn’t trying to generate unnecessary noise so doesn’t want a constant flow of stuff to eyeball. But getting users to realize that, slow down and smell the digital roses may, paradoxically, take some time/getting used to — since we’ve all been conditioned to expect and filter streams of colorful if impersonal content. Rather than to linger over thoughtful postcards.

Like Ello Nattch does not have ads. But the plan is to monetize via a yearly subscription — a la WhatsApp — of $0.99. Nattch costs $1.99 as a paid download in the U.S. which covers the first two years of the subscription.

Nattch is a nice idea in an increasingly noisy world, which can at times feel like it’s hovering on the brink of distraction fatigue given all the demands being placed on our attention by smartphones and the social services they pimp. But whether Nattch’s quieter channel can build traction remains to be seen. It is after all yet another channel to check. And charging even a small fee for an app download, especially in such a competitive space, puts up a high barrier to adoption.

It’s also questionable whether Nattch users can be kept in line sharing the ‘right’ type of content. After all a clean environment does not take a lot of pollution to muddy its waters. And one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

Still, apps and technologies trying to trade on the promise of reduced distractions are emerging as a growing theme. And that is worth noticing.