HalloApp is a private ad-free social network from two early WhatsApp employees

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HALLOAPP: Two of WhatsApp’s original workers have launched a new private social network called HalloApp.

Anyone may download and join up for HalloApp starting Monday in the Apple App Store and Google Play for Android smartphones. HalloApp and WhatsApp share many similarities: the software is designed for group or individual chats with close friends and family, the only way to discover individuals is to know their phone number, the messages are encrypted, and there are no advertisements.

While several firms have attempted and failed to establish effective social networks for close friends over the years (RIP Path), HalloApp’s two cofounders, Neeraj Arora and Michael Donohue, have a track record that makes their effort noteworthy. Before and after Facebook bought WhatsApp for $22 billion, they both worked there. Arora served as WhatsApp’s chief business officer until 2018 and was a major participant in the Facebook deal’s negotiations. And before leaving Facebook in 2019, Donohue was the engineering director of WhatsApp for nearly nine years.

Both Arora and Donohue declined to be interviewed for this story, claiming a wish to keep the app out of the spotlight at this early stage. They did, however, recently go down for an interview on Christopher Lochhead’s “Follow Your Different” podcast, in which Arora stated, “I believe the best approach to expand is to develop an outstanding product that people love to tell their friends and family about.”

HalloApp is divided into four primary tabs: a home feed of posts from your friends, group conversations, individual chats, and settings, with a minimalistic look. Posts and group chats are not sorted using algorithms.

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In a corporate blog post published on Monday, Arora described HalloApp as the antidote to traditional, engagement-driven social media, or “the twenty-first-century cigarette.”

He wrote, “Imagine your internet pals were your real friends.” “Imagine your newsfeed wasn’t clogged with people you didn’t care about and posts you didn’t want to see. Imagine browsing through important events and seeing only what you want to see, not what the algorithm wants you to see. Imagine being regarded as a person rather than a product.”

While the blog post doesn’t mention Facebook by name, it’s no secret that WhatsApp’s two cofounders, Jan Koum and Brian Acton, parted ways with the company over plans to monetize WhatsApp with advertisements. During the height of the Cambridge Analytica controversy, Acton, who now funds the encrypted messaging service Signal, memorably tweeted “#deletefacebook.” Although WhatsApp does not yet feature advertisements, Facebook has recently launched a push to entice companies selling things and communicating with customers to use the service.

HalloApp eventually plans to charge users for services through a subscription model, similar to how WhatsApp was monetized before Facebook bought it. For the time being, the 12-person company is funded by an undisclosed sum of money acquired from investors by the cofounders.

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