Ind.ie scales back, focuses on Heartbeat social networking client

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The pro-privacy project Ind.ie, which I covered a couple times last year, has scaled back its ambitions due to a lack of resources – despite having raised over $100,000 in a crowdfunding campaign just one month ago.

Brighton, U.K.–based Ind.ie will now focus purely on Heartbeat, the client for its nascent Indienet peer-to-peer social network. The Indie Phone is no longer on the table for now, and the same goes for the Pulse distributed file synchronization system (as a consumer product, at least) and Waystone “introducer” that I wrote about in November.

Pulse, a fork of the Syncthing engine, will continue as a internal component of Heartbeat and its current source code can be downloaded, but Ind.ie chief Aral Balkan wrote in a Monday blog post that “if you want a standalone synchronisation engine with community support, etc., please use Syncthing instead.”

“Pulse, Heartbeat, Waystone, a phone … it was important to share with you our vision just as you would share the synopsis of a book with your publisher. But, going forward, it would be confusing — especially for a consumer audience — to have all those implementation details thrown at them,” Balkan wrote, adding that plans to release Heartbeat for anything other than [company]Apple[/company] devices had also been scrapped for now. Heartbeat will come out for Mac first (a private pre-alpha will open to some on January 26), then iOS in the “intermediate-term.”

However, the problem with the “synopsis” version of events is that the original grand vision was the basis for the recent crowdfunding campaign. Not surprisingly, some donors are very annoyed.

Balkan denied carrying out a “bait and switch” and offered to refund donations to those who want their money back. To those who decried the choice of focusing on Apple’s closed platforms, he pointed out in the blog post that “unlike [company]Google[/company], [Apple’s] business model is not to spy on you.” He also noted that the Ind.ie team all use Macs.

“We’re under no illusions that Apple is in any way perfect. To start with, they’re proprietary and closed,” Balkan wrote. “But we’re being pragmatic. Apple’s platform is a good stop gap until we have our own independent one.”

The decision to focus is, in my opinion, a good one both from a resources and marketing standpoint. The original vision was grand but ill-defined and confusing. Far better to make the Heartbeat product a demonstrable reality and build from there — the outfit still wants to make a consumer device one day, which may be a phone.

However, the timing of the readjustment is not good. Ind.ie should have figured this stuff out last year before putting its hand out for donations. The decentralization movement is part of the open-source world, which largely runs on community spirit. If the Heartbeat project is to pull through, Ind.ie will need to work on regaining whatever goodwill it’s lost this week.

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Paul M. Watson

In a “related stories” titled “Why people are giving Ind.ie money to think past the web” Aral is quoted as saying; “It’s audacious, but only as audacious as it needs to be. If you’re just building a piece of hardware or a platform, you’re building a component and trying to compete with someone who’s building an end-user experience.”

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