inessential by Brent Simmons

On Glassboard

Justin Williams on Glassboard closing at the end of this month:

Over the last year we have tried a variety of different methods of converting Glassboard into a sustainable business. The reality is that we failed to do that.

I have some idea of what he went through — before it was Justin’s, Glassboard was Sepia Labs’s product. That was a team of six, including me, so I know the challenges of turning Glassboard into a business. We at Sepia Labs couldn’t do it, but we all hoped Justin would be able to.

Glassboard, or something just like it, is so needed. An app where you can communicate with persistent groups of people, where you control who’s in a group — and do so privately (for real) and with no ads — seems like it should be a basic service. Something everybody would use.

But since it’s social it needs to be free to get people on board, because it’s not useful without people.

But then how do you make enough money? I don’t know.

It’s easy to look at this as part of the indie-life-is-tough story. And certainly conditions are tougher right now than I’ve ever seen. But an app like Glassboard — with the social network app’s dilemma — is going to be a challenge no matter what.

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I’m proud of the work we at Sepia Labs did, and I’m proud of Justin for all his great work and all the energy he put into this. I thought he had a real shot at turning this into a business, but I suspect I underestimated the difficulty.

At any rate: I want to say thank you to my co-workers at Sepia Labs — Walker, Brian, Jenny, Nick Harris, and Nick Bradbury — and also to Justin for taking this on and working so hard at it, and to all the people who used Glassboard. Thank you so much.