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Thoughts on getting Privly adopted by a ‘significant’ number of people

July 8, 2012

More notes from my recent conversation with my friend – this one – totally devoid of the technical side and all about driving adoption.  How many people could potentially use this.  How many of those might want to if they knew about it?  How many are needed to form a critical mass of support?

My friend’s back of the envelope estimate was 3 billion people worldwide interacting on the internet by 2020.  Ive seen estimates as high as 5 billion by then.  That’s a lot of people.  The likelihood that Privly becomes the next Facebook / Google / ??? with huge percentages seems unlikely.  So the questions become What is doable?  How big is big enough to be a self-sustaining core of support?  What are the possible segments to be looked at? Should Privly try a broad strategy – many platforms / target markets or a more narrow focus?

Our conversation ranged wildly on a large nuumber of topics, but one key thing we agreed on at the end were desktop computers and laptops with full operating systems and mainstream browsers are a large market, but aren’t growing anywhere nearly as fast as the tablet / smartphone markets.  The older demographic finds computers challenging, but with the advent of the iPad and other tablets, they find getting online easier.  Younger folks are more likely to spend more of their ‘social sharing’ time on a smartphone or tablet also.  So – while an initial approach of desktop / laptop browsers may not be bad, consideration should certainly be given to support for other devices.

The current Privly strategy is to go open source and try to recruit enough community developer support to be able to support a wide range of browser options – FireFox, IE, Chrome, Safari and Opera.  This doesn’t sound so bad on its face – but when you add in all the versions, and OS versions and configurations, and security policies that might be in place, there are a huge number of combinations that would need to be tested.  Maybe its doable, maybe restricting the range of what is supported makes more sense.  Maybe implementing security on a backend server and minimizing the browser based code might make maintenance easier. With an HTTPS connection to the server, the security decrease is small.  Possibly offer this as an option?

Another thread of conversation we had that didn’t really get fully formed was what’s the compelling reason to use Privly.  The first take we took on it was a who is likely to use it.  We broke that into 3 types of folks.  First, crypto-geeks who like encryption for its own sake and having a relatively easy way to use it daily jump at the chance.  Second, privacy enthusiasts – either in general (ACLU, EFF, etc.) or for specific reasons (concerns about certain friends, partners, company relations finding out what they are doing).  Third, folks who aren’t particularly interested – but want to communicate with someone who is, so they participate for the sake of the person who is concerned.  Later in the conversation we added that there might be some services that do not want to be held accountable for the content users post on their servers.  The service providers then might encourage users to encrypt in such a way that the provider actually can’t provide any information on the posts.  A recent article described Twitter in just such a sticky situation.

One potentially compelling reason would be to prevent something that was posted from being taken out of context and coming back to haunt the person years or decades later.  Another would be to make it harder to be persecuted for your beliefs.  Perhaps protection from the service provider (wherever the posts are) knowing too much about you.   GMail ads are based on content of your emails.   GMail’s info on their ad policy includes – If “you’ve recently received a lot of messages about photography or cameras, a deal from a local camera store might be interesting” so that ad is more likely to be served.

There is definitely a critical mass issue here.  If I’m not particularly interested, and one friend of mine tries to convince me I should put forth some effort, I may or may not – even if the effort seems small.  On the other hand, if 2-5 of my top 10 people I communicate with use this, I’m very likely to join in – just to make it easier.  The network effect definitely plays here.

So perhaps the correct question is not how to get Privly adopted by a significant number of total people, but by a significant number of people in a particular market segment?  Then the obvious follow up questions become what is that segment?  How do we identify it? expand into it? and dominate that one area?

 

 

.   While the initial Privly focus is browser extensions that

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