Digisocial's audio-enabled sharing app proves privacy is not dead

Mobile application user privacy is shaping up as one of the hot-button issues of 2013. California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris kicked off the year by issuing a 22-page set of guidelines urging developers to "minimize surprises to users from unexpected privacy practices," suggesting they post transparent, easy-to-read privacy policy guidelines and recommending the use of "special notices" when an app might be using data in a way consumers might not expect. Days later, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) released the Application Privacy, Protection and Security Act of 2013, or APPS Act, a draft bill that would require developers to disclose their information collection practices and enable users to request the deletion of their stored data. The U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration is formulating its own set of app privacy recommendations and best practices as well.

Savvy developers like Digisocial are baking privacy safeguards directly into their applications. Released in mid-January for Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS, the free Digisocial app enables users to create VoicePhotos--high-definition audio recordings attached to images and text messages--shared publicly via Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and Twitter or exchanged privately within their individual Digisocial networks, all in four clicks or fewer. Digisocial also lets you add filters to photos, chat with friends, search trending topics and images, or locate nearby users with similar interests. The app promises a 100 percent private, ad-free experience: Digisocial does not support advertising or promoted posts, tracks only the data users elect to share, and vows never to peddle content or data to third parties--a critical selling point in the wake of the recent Instagram flap.


Digisocial Vice President Marco Mereu spoke to FierceDeveloper contributor Jason Ankeny about improving the social sharing experience, the value of voice and the importance of standing out from the pack.

Marco Mereu

     Marco Mereu

Marco Mereu on Digisocial's origins: The principal founding members started in social and browser-based gaming. In 2009 we launched Evony, a browser-based multiplayer game with 30 million user accounts, and from there we worked on a social game called Tynon that launched last year. We learned a lot from social games, and decided to apply that knowledge to mobile.

We all use social networks just like you do, and we began to feel that social sharing was getting antiquated and boring. We wanted to make it a more personal, more immersive experience. Texting has been around for about 20 years now, and we wanted to push it forward and bring all the elements you like about social networks into one place.

Digisocial is social sharing on steroids. You can share really personalized content--you can capture images, add filters, and instantly upload high-definition audio. Whatever you think enriches the experience, you can attach it to a photo, and with the click of a button share it to Facebook or Twitter. We also offer very robust chatting functionality. You can interact any way you want. That's the real kicker: We want people to share differently than they have in the past. We want them to have a deeper, richer experience.

Share to Twitter

 Digisocial content can be shared via Twitter.

We also got tired of feeling like products ourselves--people feel like they're being advertised to non-stop, or that their information is being sold to marketers. It's a huge food chain. So we wanted to offer an alternative and give people a choice. Digisocial will never have ads, and we don't share user information with third parties or marketing companies. We thought that was a fundamental principle to start on.

Mereu on what sets Digisocial apart from similar apps: Voice is the driving factor. The quality of our voice transmissions is as good if not better than anything else on the market. We think it's very, very clear, and we can see it being used all the time in a practical context--for example, if I'm running late, I can speak directly into my phone, send a voice text and my wife gets a notification.

People will always text to some degree. I don't think the process is the issue--it's the antiquated art of texting. Your head's down when you're texting, and you miss moments that are happening. With Digisocial, that never happens. You never miss anything. After using it for a week, I found it difficult to go back to texting.

We're working on a lot of other cool ideas. There's so much you can do around content sharing when you're doing it with voice.

Discover - Digisocial

Digisocial lets users share items in under four clicks.

Mereu on developing for iOS: We wanted to focus on iOS out of the gate. We're confident Android users would love Digisocial, but from a timing perspective, developing for two platforms is a lot more time-consuming than one. iOS has more core users sharing content regularly, and the iPhone lends itself to something like Digisocial very well. The iPhone 5 has all these new capabilities, but nobody is using them. We built an app that takes advantage of all the capabilities of the modern-day smartphone, like photos, location and seamless sharing to Facebook and Twitter.

Mereu on Digisocial's business model: We're lucky. We're not a small, bootstrapped startup. We're self-funded. We have a lot of ourselves invested in this company. We won't ever monetize with ads or selling information to third parties. You can start to speculate about additional services that can be laid on top, like private networks or gaming. There are lots of things we can do that people will want to pay for. But our core social features will always be delivered free. That never will change.

Mereu's best advice for aspiring mobile developers: You need to pay attention to App Store optimization and figure out how to get your app noticed. It's a very competitive space. Don't be afraid to try something different to make yourself stand out, and don't be intimidated by the bigger players.

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