Sometimes, putting on a mask is the only way to really let yourself go – to express yourself and tell it like it is without having to worry about what others think of you.
“It’s like what Leonardo (DiCaprio) told me about Halloween being his favorite holiday,” said Moshe Hogeg, whose latest app, Galaxia, aims to supply the masks that he believes online users want and need. “It’s the only time of the year he can go out on the street and be himself without having to worry about being judged by anyone.”
Hogeg can casually drop Oscar-winner DiCaprio’s name, as well as the name of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, because they are backers of Galaxia, which allows users to anonymously join different “worlds” in a galaxy of social networks. Users can present a persona that is appropriate to each group, posting content and participating in conversations that remain in that group – with their actual identity remaining confidential.
The app was released Thursday for iPhones; an Android version will be ready in a couple of weeks, said Hogeg.
In essence, Galaxia is the anti-Facebook. It uses the same social network tools, like contextual conversations, the ability to post many kinds of content, allowing for open or closed groups, and other features. Except that instead of a single profile page, users can have as many profiles as they want, and those profiles are associated with users only in the specific groups that they choose; the actual identity/owner of that profile remains a secret.
“Leonardo is an actor, you are a journalist, I am an entrepreneur,” said Hogeg. “Actually, everyone today has a their own online brand, and most people are reluctant to do anything to mar that brand – which means they self-censor, keeping their thoughts to themselves, or find ways around the system,” like setting up fake Facebook pages to post content to news sites and groups that they would be embarrassed to post with their real name.
The difference is that Facebook discourages – actually forbids – having multiple accounts in different names. Galaxia not only encourages that – it’s the app’s raison d’être, said Hogeg.
With Galaxia, anyone can create their own social network – called a world – where they can post and discuss any subject of interest. Users can join any public world, share their content or create new worlds where they can set their own rules such as deciding whether the world will be private or public, and whether the world will be free or users will need to pay an entrance fee to join. Each world provides a stream of content, ranging from text, to photos, videos, and live broadcasting.
Galaxia is not just a social app. On several levels, it is also a social experiment, said Hogeg, “and after we have a few thousand users we will be able to better determine the system’s value to users.” After all there has never been a deliberately anonymized social network before – and seeing how it will play out will be an interesting experiment.
But just as interesting is Galaxia’s take on monetizing social networks.
“For years, developers, entrepreneurs, advertisers, and especially content providers have been searching for ways to monetize content, and we believe that that goes for social content as well – we see a big need for a way to do that, and Galaxia is a step in that direction.”
If Hogeg is right, the Galaxia approach could revolutionize online content, finally providing a way for bloggers, or even news sites, to connect with their audience (via the social networking component of Galaxia) while making money out of the content that the loyal followers of a group (or organization, or online publication) are willing to pay for, because they find that content valuable.
A platform to charge money to join a group is built into the app; all a world manager has to do is choose the option, and users of the group will be asked to pay before reading and/or posting content, depending on the policies determined by the manager.
Hogeg is no stranger to experimentation. His most famous experiment is the Yo! app, which simply allowed users to click on their contacts and send out the greeting “Yo!,” a word akin to “hey there” or “what’s up” – and nothing else. Once derided, Yo! has turned out to be a very smart idea, as some 75 notification apps – by service providers and companies like Sony Pictures, Spotify, Capitol Records, the BBC and USA Today use the Yo! platform as the basis of their apps.
“Yo!, and some of the other projects our venture capital firm Singulariteam has invested in, shows we are not afraid to try something new, and this is definitely something new,” said Hogeg. “But I believe this can be a big winner. After Yo!, we worked on four other projects which we shut down – and then we came up with this, which meets a real market need that no one else has yet addressed.”