We are facilitating a more open era of human connection.
While social media has demonstrated quite a bit of potential, we are concerned about its long list of negative implications. Its harmful design patterns target the vulnerabilities of human psychology and have taken a toll on our youth and the fabrics of our communities.
Junto is a collective effort to rebalance our relationship with technology, our communities, and ourselves. Through a humanely designed interface, distributed technology, and a nonprofit approach, we've created a new breed of social media in the spirit of authenticity. We invite all of you to help accelerate this shift towards a decentralized internet and cultivate an atmosphere that inspires each individual's most natural form of expression.
The Medium is the Message
We believe the forms we communicate through are just as important as the message itself. The evolution of social media starts with revisiting the fundamentals and redesigning them in more humane ways. Here are some of our guiding principles:
Transparent social profiles
We believe transparency is important in ensuring accountability. In addition to having a username/handle, your full name will also be displayed. Of course, how you choose to identify yourself is up to you.
No vanity metrics or AI-powered echo chambers
- We’ve replaced the like button with something called a ‘resonation.’ We will elaborate more on this in the ‘Pack’ section below, but essentially it offers a more intentional way to engage with other people’s content.
- In Junto, your follower count is set to be hidden by default. Those who wish to display theirs may opt in to do so. We want to encourage an atmosphere where this rating metric has less significance.
- We don’t leverage artificial intelligence to create newsfeeds that reinforce existing perspectives. You design your own experience.
Say goodbye to ads that chip away 15 second increments of our lives. Junto is built on a distributed technology called Holochain, so you own your data. We won’t own, track, or sell your information.
There are an ever-expanding number of ways to create in Junto. There will be seven mediums to start — longform, shortform, bullet, photo, video, music, and events. This list will grow according to what this community wants — for example, we can introduce a medium for writing poetry, initiating collaboration, recording podcasts, drawing, you get the idea. The center for expression is completely dynamic and customizable.
Each expression created in Junto can be tagged into channels. Think of channels as topics (sustainability, tech, food, etc). Defining expressions by channels is not mandatory, but makes your content more discoverable. If a specific channel doesn’t exist yet, you can be the first to create it.
When you create an expression, you can share it in one of three places — the collective, your pack, or your den. These are the three core layers of Junto. Let’s dive in.
Collective (Public Layer)
This is where all public expressions in Junto exist. Within the ‘Collective’, you can explore content through spheres. A sphere is essentially a newsfeed.
There are two spheres to start — ‘collective’ and ‘selective.’ The ‘collective’ sphere contains every public expression ever created . The ‘selective’ sphere contains expressions from specific individuals you have decided to follow.
Within each sphere, you can explore content by specific channels (topics). For example, let’s say you are in the collective sphere and want to see all expressions within the ‘sustainability’ channel. You can do so by using the search filter. You can also search for all expressions in ‘sustainability’ AND ‘food’ or all expressions in ‘sustainability’ OR ‘food.’
In addition to the default ‘collective’ and ‘following’ spheres, you can create your own spheres to organize the different circles in your life (examples above). You can name them and add who you want (they do not have to accept an invite since this is purely a way to explore content on your end). You can also customize spheres to only contain expressions from specific channels as well. The idea is to give you full sovereignty over your experience — one created by your natural intelligence and not artificially generated.
Pack (Semi-Private Layer)
This is where things start to get more interesting.
Ultimately, we are more than what we choose to share about ourselves. We are the summation of the people who have influenced us in our lives. Every person on Junto can create their own pack. Your pack is meant to be a space for people you’re most comfortable being yourself with.
When you invite people to your pack, they mutually agree to invite you into theirs. People who belong to your pack are the only ones that can access it.
Your pack contains:
- Expressions you choose to share publicly
- Expressions you choose to share privately to your pack
- Expressions people in your pack choose to share publicly (provides a more holistic representation of who you are and facilitates relationships between people in your pack)
- Expressions you choose to ‘resonate’ (a resonation is our replacement for the like button. This is a more intentional way of engaging with content since it gets broadcasted back to your pack.)
A ‘Pack’ is an agent-centric community where you are the common thread between everyone involved. Imagine all of the people in different circles of your life coming together in one space where they can discover and engage with one another. This is a natural way to meet people and explore content since you are the common ground between them.
Den (Private Layer)
The final layer of Junto is the den. This is your profile and within it, your private headspace. There are some things you will likely want to keep to yourself. When you create an expression on Junto, you can choose to keep it in your den and share it to your pack or the collective later if you want.
Your den is essentially a digital journal. The difference is that this journal is as dynamic as you want it to be, instead of being primarily-text based. Remember how Junto provides an ever-expanding number of mediums? The expression center is the single focal point of creation within Junto and enables flexibility in the types of expressions you keep to yourself.
Powered by Holochain / Holo
By now, you've probably heard of blockchain. Holochain is a blockchain alternative that delivers on blockchain's objective to create a more fair, distributed web.
Since Junto is built on Holochain, your data no longer lives in centralized servers we run or own. As a result, we don't have a license to track or sell your data (nor would we want to). You own your all your data and creative content.
- Junto is more private and secure
- You own your data
- We never track or sell your information
- Junto is far more censorship-resistant
- Junto is completely ad-free
- You can help build a new, distributed internet
Holochain vs blockchain:
- Holochain is scalable (can process far more transactions more quickly)
- Holochain is more energy efficient
- Holochain does not enforce global consensus like Proof of Work or Proof of Stake that create scalability bottlenecks and mining centralization. Instead, it uses distributed hash tables, gossip protocols, and self-validating peers to achieve data integrity
- Holochain is accessible to everyone through its Holo infrastructure. This means a seamless user experience people are used to and no extra technical know-how
For Love, Not For Profit
A year ago, we transitioned from being a C Corporation to a nonprofit. This will be officially realized once we receive the funding to do so.
As a nonprofit, Junto remains independent of investors and third parties. There are no shareholders that can 'own' a piece of this, alter our direction moving forward, or pressure us to design the application in ways that may deviate from what most benefits our community. This is a grassroots initiative carried out by people from all over the world.
We believe in open ideas and open contribution. Individuals from all walks of life are welcome to participate in this. The evolution of our designs will be community-driven, our technology will be open-source, and our growth will be driven by word of mouth.
A Sustainable Path Forward
Being a nonprofit whose technology is completely open-source, we are often met with the question, "How will this make money?"
Here are some potential avenues we are considering moving forward:
Option 1) Fully driven by donations. Wikipedia follows this model while sitting as one of the top ten most popular sites.
Option 2) We believe there is an increasing shift away from advertisements and towards subscriptions. When you don't pay for the product, you are the product. With that being said, those who back us on Kickstarter at any tier will receive free lifetime access to Junto!
Option 3) In the near future, Junto will enable people to donate to their favorite creators. One revenue model is to charge a small transaction fee for facilitating the process. If we adopt Option 1) or Option 2), then we will just provide this service for free.
Option 4) Some combination of 1, 2, and 3.
More than a social network
We know nothing can replace the magical connections created by meeting people in real life. For several months now, we've been holding space for people to come together in person. Our goal with Junto is to encourage a more harmonious relationship with social technology and use it to enable connections in more tangible, meaningful ways.
As we grow, we will continue to bring people together in physical spaces and enable our global volunteer community to do so as well.
Who are we?
We're a team of five designers, engineers, artists, and storytellers. Most importantly, we are people who care about unapologetic self-expression and want to inspire that in others.
Most of us have left school and our jobs to fully commit to bringing this to life. We understand the challenges that come with building Junto and are ready to take them on.
Our story so far
It's been a long time coming. Here's a glimpse into our story:
- Junto was founded - July 2016
- Released an alpha at Vanderbilt University (testimonials below) - April 2017
- Secured some funding and moved to New York - June 2017
- Expanded our team to five - September 2017
- Made the shift towards decentralization - October 2017
- Decided to become a nonprofit - February 2018
- Received a personal grant from Arthur Brock, co-founder of Holochain - May 2018
- Opened the waitlist for our beta to the public - June 2018
- Finalized our product designs after a year of feedback and iteration - November 2018
- Launched our Kickstarter campaign - January to February 2019
- Junto beta (open only to early signups, Kickstarter backers, and invites) - June 2019
We've been building on real, hands-on feedback. Testimonials from our Vanderbilt alpha:
“Our whole generation has an undercurrent of thoughts like this, but we need something to help pull all those pieces together. I’m hoping Junto can be at least one of those tools to do that.” - Noah Gertler, Vanderbilt
“Congrats on the launch. I think the app is generating some really honest, intellectual discussions about things that matter. The genuineness of the content and community you’ve created is definitely the coolest and most valuable thing about Junto.”- John Sangimino, Vanderbilt
“So I’ve been using Junto. And I love it. I’ve been using it as a daily diary as a way to get my thoughts out there and hold myself accountable to not bottling my emotions up. I’m so thankful this app was created and I’m even more thankful for the team working so hard on this incredibly impressive app and acting on the desire to foster deeper conversation and helping others feel more included.” - Sydney Silberman, Vanderbilt
So where are we now?
Everything is in place for us to release confidently and at scale. We have over two years of product iteration and tangible feedback under our belts. Our designs are finalized and we are already in the process of developing our mobile and web applications. Holochain and Holo will also be in its beta stage by the time we release, so we have a real opportunity to be one of the first distributed applications to reach many people.
With the exception of a few personal donations, we've been largely self-funded. Most of us have been freelancing, working part-time jobs and pouring in savings to keep this going. None of us have been paid.
With the right support, capital and community, we can get this off the ground and running. We are calling on those who feel a conviction to forward this cause to donate and share this project with people who may resonate. Your support is what will make this possible.
Let's make this happen together.
Kickstarter goal: $100,000
On top of the Kickstarter rewards, this covers operational, legal, and IT expenses for six months. Below is a breakdown of what this money will be used for:
Risks and challenges
There are three main challenges we see moving forward. First, it will be difficult to generate significant adoption of Junto early on since the value of social networks lives in the people that use it. Many have become accustomed to existing platforms and most of their friends, family, and circles are using the same platforms.
Another challenge to note is that we are building on new, cutting-edge technology. While it's important to take this risk and help further the distributed computing ecosystem, our timeline is dependent on how Holochain / Holo evolves. There is also less documentation on how to develop things and a number of moving parts are still being figured out.
Finally, Junto is not for profit. We'll be driven largely by donations until we determine which revenue model (see 'A Sustainable Path Forward' section) is the best solution for us moving forward. We acknowledge the difficulties in raising donations at the early stages, but feel empowered by the response we've received from this community so far and are confident we will move past these hurdles.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)