Elon Musk bought everybody labored up about Twitter, however the reality is, the social media platform has been poisonous for so long as it has existed. Spending time on Twitter wears on you, whether or not you’re chasing likes or dodging harassment. I can’t keep in mind the final time I logged into any social media app and felt happier afterward.
Frankly, I’m undecided it’s a solvable drawback, however I’ve loved my time touring the invite-only app Somewhere Good. Developed by the crew behind Ethel’s Club—a piece and social membership for individuals of coloration that lately developed right into a wellness platform—Somewhere Good has raised $3.75 million in funding to construct a brand new social community targeted on wholesome conversations for Black and different underrepresented customers.
It’s one in every of many makes an attempt at overhauling social media to be much less company and extra satisfying, starting from Yo to Ello. Somewhere Good stands out in its design, which was impressed by all the things from early internet aesthetics to Black tradition.
Just about each element inside Somewhere Good affords a remarkably totally different expertise than the social media apps you’ve tried earlier than.
“We specifically designed the experience to move against hierarchy in may different ways. There are no likes, no followers. It isn’t an infinite scroll. There are no profiles, so there’s no way to see those types of statistics,” says head of design Annika Hansteen-Izora. “What does it look like if you have a social media app that isn’t working with commodification and self-branding but instead, what can an online space look like that’s against hierarchy?”
It begins with a unusual person interface that was impressed as a lot by early web aesthetics because it was by crops in nature. And it continues right into a core expertise that, as an alternative of that includes one infinite feed, begins with a query to guide a broader dialogue like, “How do you stay present?”
Up to 24 individuals can reply the day by day immediate with their recorded voice. Why a recording? Because oral traditions are a part of Black tradition, and voices are inherently intimate. (Fun truth: While Clubhouse has garnered a lot of the credit score for speech-based social media, Black designers mining insights from their communities drove the event of Spaces at Twitter earlier than its launch.)
Once they reply a immediate, the person’s picture turns into a brand new hyperlink in a series that you may faucet on and take heed to. Without the verification of blue checkmarks, everybody seems as equals. However, if individuals select to reply on to somebody’s message (and there’s no restrict to how many individuals can do that), their avatar will evolve from a circle to a petaled flower. The extra responses, the extra petals, indicating a extra lively dialog.
“It’s like you’re walking a path of different flowers that are growing as people add their own seeds to the conversation,” says Hansteen-Izora, who likens wholesome conversations to thriving gardens but in addition doesn’t pigeonhole the method to any single metaphor.
“I was inspired by Neopets, Club Penguin, Microsoft Paint,” Hansteen-Izora says. “I was inspired by these online spaces that aren’t so constrained, which is how I see the design of social media apps today. They’re very minimal. The goal of the design of major social media platforms today is to make everything as digestible as possible, to put it all into a very clean template, which I can understand! But I was inspired by the early playfulness of the internet, where it did feel like we’re in a new age and anything is possible.”
By design, the interface—coupled with the character of voice memos—causes you to decelerate and take heed to different individuals as they unpack their ideas as mini monologues. It’s an expertise that works at a beta scale, consisting of a small, curated group of testers. And to scale it up will naturally invite extra issues, though nobody I’ve seen on the platform is there to begin a battle.
The crew is considering easy methods to remedy a few of social media’s most insidious issues at scale. A big subject is making certain that concepts have correct attribution. “Black culture has influenced so much of internet culture, and yet that citation is often erased,” Hansteen-Izora says. “So how can we design citation and [an] archive in this space that actually ensures people are credited for their knowledge and contributions?”
The greatest open query is about monetization. Somewhere Good has no subscription payment or commercials, so how will it generate profits? When I posed the query to Naj Austin, founder and CEO of Somewhere Good, she responded: “We have some exciting ideas for monetization down the line but right now we’re hyperfocused on building a strong platform that can scale users and increase retention.”
While that method is widespread within the trade, it additionally comes with a price—starting from Meta’s invasive advert concentrating on to Instagram’s ever-shifting pile of adverts and shops in your feed. Then once more, maybe Austin realizes that for any social media platform to turn out to be a profitable enterprise, it wants customers as desperately because it wants beliefs. And in the mean time, Somewhere Good has the beliefs down pat.