Two of WhatsApp’s first employees emerged with a new private social network called HalloApp.
Starting Monday, anyone can download and sign up for HalloApp in the Apple App Store and Google Play on Android devices. There are many parallels between HalloApp and WhatsApp: the app is designed for group or individual chats with close friends and family, the only way to find people is by knowing their phone number, messages are encrypted and there is no advertising.
While other startups over the years have tried and failed to build successful social networks for their close friends (RIP Path), the pedigree of HalloApp’s two co-founders, Neeraj Arora and Michael Donohue, makes this particular effort notable. They both worked at WhatsApp before and after Facebook bought it for $ 22 billion. Arora was WhatsApp’s commercial director until 2018 and a key figure in negotiating the Facebook deal. And Donohue was CTO of WhatsApp for almost nine years before leaving Facebook in 2019.
Arora and Donohue both declined to be interviewed for this story, citing a desire to avoid press attention so early in the app’s lifespan. But they recently sat down for an interview on Christopher Lochhead’s ‘Follow Your Different’ podcast, in which Arora said, “I think the best way to grow is to create an amazing product that people love to tell their friends about. and their families. “
HalloApp is split into four main tabs – a welcome feed of messages from your friends, group chats, individual chats, and settings – and its overall aesthetic is very minimal. There are no algorithms for sorting posts or group chats.
Arora laid out the philosophy behind HalloApp in a corporate blog post on Monday, in which he positions it as the antidote to traditional engagement-driven social media, or “the cigarette of the 21st century.”
“Imagine your online friends were your real friends,” he wrote. “Imagine that your feed wasn’t filled with people and messages that you don’t care about. Imagine scrolling through meaningful moments and seeing what you wanted you to see, not what the algorithm wanted you to see. Imagine not being treated like a product.
While the blog post does not specifically name Facebook, it’s no secret that the two WhatsApp co-founders, Jan Koum and Brian Acton, left Facebook due to disagreements over WhatsApp monetization plans with ads. . Acton, who now funds the encrypted messaging app Signal, tweeted “#deletefacebook” at the height of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. WhatsApp still doesn’t have any ads, but Facebook recently made an effort to have businesses sell products and engage with customers on the app.
Eventually, HalloApp plans to charge users for features with a subscription, mimicking WhatsApp’s initial monetization before Facebook bought it. For now, the 12-person company is using an undisclosed amount that the co-founders raised from investors.