Sgrouples | The World’s Private Social Network, Interview with Forrest Hanson

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What is Sgrouples?

Sgrouples is the world’s private social network. It was built on the belief that people want to replicate their real life online–to communicate personally and privately with the people that they really care about in their real life–which is a different model from the current social networks. Simply, Sgrouples is designed to allow its users to share exactly what they want with exactly who they want without having anybody else see it.

Sgrouples also integrates a lot of useful features that people are familiar with, such as shared file storage similar to Dropbox, the ability to share things with friends like with Facebook, the ability to maintain your business friends like Linkedin and a feature with editable documents similar to what Gmail offers with “My Drive”, in addition to a number of other powerful elements.

How was the idea originally generated?

Mark Weinstein, the founder and CEO of Sgrouples, was a pioneer of the early social network experience online with his first creation in 1999, Supergroups, one of the first real social networks on the Internet. He noticed that there was a real problem with current social networks: everybody knows everything about everybody else. There’s no privacy. All of your data is taken from you and stored in computers somewhere. He believes that this idea is fundamentally unnatural and makes people uncomfortable. Thus, along with Dr. Jonathan Wolfe, he founded Sgrouples, which is based on the idea that it is very possible to be both private and social simultaneously.

How does a private social network work, and in what aspects would you say that this concept is more beneficial to users than a public social network such as Facebook?

What often happens with current social networks is that they act like big megaphones, you just blast everyone at once! The reality is that relationships with different groups of people are dramatically different from one another. Of course, we know there are ways to restrict access to your posts to certain people, but on a public social network the process is often very cumbersome. At Sgrouples, you can just create a new group for each of the groups of contacts and relationships in your real life. For example, I can create a group for my college friends, another one for my work buddies and another one for my family. This allows you to talk to who you want, when you want and about exactly the things that you want. Sgrouples is about selectively sharing with all the people in your life.

What really defines Sgrouples is its focus on privacy. Sgrouples is based on a private groups model. All of your real life connections can be added to “My Contacts,” a private pool of friends, family, coworkers, and so on that you can communicate with directly or put into private groups. All users are protected from things like tracking, stalking and spying by advertisers inside of the site.

In addition, at Sgrouples, the privacy protections are on a completely different level from other current social networks. Your profile, groups and content can never be accessed by somebody outside of the site, and you can only access a private group by being expressly invited in. This removes the possibility of someone like your boss seeing an embarrassing picture of you. You can be completely free and comfortable with yourself, because you know who you’re talking to.

What are the main challenges of being a social network and being private at the same time?

Whenever you create something that has never existed before, the first issue is always going to be clearly communicating the value of this new service.  I would say that the primary issue has really been education, teaching people about the power of the site and the importance of both privacy and controlling their rights. We’ve had to really teach people that you can be both private and social, and that there is a superior alternative to current public sites!

How many users do you currently have? How have you mainly attracted your current Sgrouples users and continue to attract new users?

As part of our privacy platform, we don’t discuss the exact membership of the site. I’m happy to say that our month-to-month growth has been very substantial, and we have grown enormously in the past 30 days. So we’ve been very successful so far. We’ve received a lot of media interest. One of the big things that we have been lucky with is that a lot of people have been interested in the site, which creates great word of mouth.

 Interesting Fact

Among his numerous achievements, Dr. Jonathan Wolfe (co-founder of Sgrouples) has studied the neurophysiology of the visual system, and is extremely knowledgeable regarding how color interacts with the brain. You can see that there is a big colorful image in our logo and all your Sgrouples, the groups inside the site, are based off of this color philosophy. Everything is color-coded inside of the site because that’s what the brain remembers best. When people use the site, they often report having this incredibly intuitive experience with it.

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