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Quid Sentio Blog

The trade-offs of choosing privacy as a nascent social network

Quid Sentio is a shareable personal journal.
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All major social networks are designed on the principle of extreme connectivity. That's an innovation that a lot of people yearned. They give you easy contact with hundreds of friends, or thousands of followers, or that celebrity that might see your message. The more people can see your posts, the better.

Quid Sentio is the opposite of that. We designed it to keep what you say among friends, and only them. That excludes a lot of people from seeing your posts. It excludes acquaintances and coworkers but also tracking and advertising companies, even ourselves at Quid Sentio (through end-to-end encryption*).

* End-to-end encryption is not yet implemented

Building the opposite of successful products brings its challenges. There are a lot of good lessons that we cannot apply. There are also a lot of opportunities that only we can seize. This is a list of our choices on four trade-offs that emerged from choosing privacy as a foundation for a new social network.

1) We charge a subscription, instead of offering a free product sustained by ad revenue

A business model choice with an impact on design.

Beneficial to us

We do not need to heavily track users to provide insights and targeting to advertisers, so less complexity in development. We do not need to create sophisticated self-serving ad management tools and/or have a sales team. We have a faster track to profitability.

Beneficial to the user

You are not subject to manipulative and addictive tactics that optimize for more time spent on the site to click on ads.

Detrimental to us

We add much, much, much more friction for adoption. Consequently, less virality (the primary acquisition channel for social networks).

Detrimental to the user

It costs you money. You will have a harder to convince others to join if you like it. Some users consider that some targeted advertising might actually add value to them.

We could start as a free product and charge for it in the future to delay this trade-off, but that is risky and could lead to illusional adoption that wouldn't be sustainable. We prefer to find out the ideal product worth paying now, rather than optimizing for users that would only use a free product.

Another trade-off is presented as a consequence of one of the benefits -- allowing for less invasive tracking.


2) We have minimal tracking of page views, instead of intensive tracking of user behavior

A technical choice with an impact on business.

Beneficial to us

We add differentiation from mainstream social media (which is only good if paying users value this). We have less complexity in development. It is cheaper for us, with no need to pay for third party solutions or invest our time into creating a hosted solution.

Beneficial to the user

You access a lighter and faster website. You have more privacy. As we are not collecting your behavior data, you have no risk of us leaking or selling this data.

Detrimental to us

We have much less information on user behavior (harder for us to know how to improve the product and find the best marketing channels).

Detrimental to the user

No negative impact for you on this one. You would gain nothing from being tracked by us.


3) We incentivize adding only close friends and family to your network, instead of everyone and their mother

A design choice with an impact on business.

Beneficial to us

We add differentiation from mainstream social media (again, only good if paying users value this).

Beneficial to the user

You have more confidence that only people you trust will see your personal and intimate posts. You have more control over who sees what, as posts are visible only to you by default, and there is no sharing functionality. You can nurture closer relationships by having fewer and more private conversations. You have no risk of being a victim of unethical growth hacks stealing and spamming your contacts.

Detrimental to us

We have less virality.

Detrimental to the user

You have more friction to add people to your network. You may find it hard to decide if you should add some people that are in a grey zone between a close friend and an acquaintance.


4) We will have end-to-end encryption, instead of your posts' data stored in plain text in our servers

A technical choice with an impact on design. This feature is still in development, but it is something already decided.

Beneficial to us

We add differentiation from mainstream social media (one more time, only good if paying users value this). We mitigate our risk of suffering data leaks.

Beneficial to the user

You have a lower risk of having your personal data exposed through data leaks. You have the peace of mind that no one, not even Quid Sentio employees, will be reading your posts without your knowledge and authorization.

Detrimental to us

We have less knowledge about user behavior (we can't read what people are posting to understand how people are using our product). We add complexity to our development. We have a harder time explaining the product and the benefits and downsides of this technical choice.

Detrimental to the user

You risk losing all of your posts forever if you forget your password (we mitigate that by allowing password recovery if using the same device, but we do not eliminate the risk).


These are all conscious decisions on a probably non-exhaustive list. It is hard to know if it will pay off, but it definitely represents our principles, and it gives us a clear view of what we will and what we won't do.

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