A new platform being beta-tested hopes to re-introduce an element of what many social media companies have seemingly lost sight of amid industry controversies — maintaining a sense of community.
“A big differentiator for us is creating a space where people feel like they don’t have to perform,” Somewhere Good Founder and CEO Naj Austin said on Yahoo Finance Live (video above). “There are no likes. There are no followers. There are no algorithms tracking you. We’ve removed any temptation for bad behavior that you’ll find on other platforms.”
Somewhere Good’s audio-based formula has users interacting with each other through voice notes, simulating a conversation. Users are recommended communities based on their interests and values, and a short quiz for pairing with colorful scenarios and responses can be found on their website.
“We wanted to add a bit more humanity back to what it means to be online,” Austin said. “I think after the last two years of COVID, we’ve all been looking for what community means to us … as my team was thinking about it, it just became really important that you hear a person’s voice when they’re sharing.”
‘We won’t allow any language that revolves around hate’
A new prompt — called “seeds” — is posted within each community every day, where Somewhere Good users can respond to them individually, snowballing into “conversations” branching off between customers from there. This is similar to Twitter’s (TWTR) Spaces feature.
However, Austin stressed how her platform will be very different from Twitter and other social media networks where online discord can create toxic digital environments.
Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk’s current acquisition of Twitter has the EV developer pressing the board on the presence of bot accounts and free speech concerns. Facebook parent company Meta (FB), on the other hand, is still trying to shake off echoes of a whistleblower revealing how their algorithm impacted teenage users’ mental health last fall.
“In terms of moderation, we have a lot of thoughts — we’re trying to move very slowly and intentionally around what the experience is like,” Austin said. “I will say, unequivocally, that we won’t allow any language that revolves around hate and all the encompassing ways of what that can mean.”
For now, Somewhere Good is still being beta-tested and is only available on the Apple Store for iPhones, with plans to later roll out onto Android phones and the Google Play Store.
The company fundraised $3.75 million in its seed round in May 2021, an effort spearheaded by tech venture capital firm True Ventures. Actress Gabrielle Union, Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes, and former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao are a few notable angel investors.
The app is still code protected since it’s in beta mode, but according to Austin, the plan is to publicly launch in the coming months.
“[We’re] definitely [going] for scale, but I think in scale there can be very different groups inside that space,” Austin said. “I think fragmentation has been happening since the beginning of the internet, we just had these larger conglomerates come in and bring everyone to that space.”
Luke is a digital producer for Yahoo Finance.
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