12th January, 2015 — Aral Balkan

Focus is hard.

It’s hard to write code when people are being murdered for drawing pictures.

It’s hard to concentrate when millions march on the streets of France for our freedoms and all you want to do is want to be out there beside them, marching along.

It’s hard to pick which of a thousand injustices to tackle.

It’s hard, but necessary. We can either shout at the wind in a thousand directions or we can choose one and put all our effort into walking in that direction. That’s how we can have the most impact. That’s what we intend to do.

So we’re making some difficult changes here at We’re pruning the tree to make it healthier.

One product

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.

Pulse is the low-level synchronisation engine at the heart of our platform. But it is not a consumer product and never will be. You can still download and use it but we will no longer be supporting it as a separate product. If you want a standalone synchronisation engine with community support, etc., please use Syncthing instead.

Going forward, has just one product: Heartbeat.

One platform

Of course we’d love to have Heartbeat running on every platform under the sun. But only if we could do that well. And no one, no matter how many resources they have, can do that.

Our goal is not to create yet another lacklustre free software alternative only for it to be rejected by consumers. We want to make a beautiful product that will be held as a benchmark of what independent technology is capable of. The only way we can do that is to start small, remain agile and focused, and iterate quickly and continuously on the user experience. We cannot both do that and support a gazillion different platforms including your new smart fridge.

So, going forward, we are focussing the efforts of our tiny team on just one platform: Apple’s. We are starting with Mac and our goal is to also support iOS in the near future.

Our plan is to create something people actually want to use on one platform first. We must get the user experience right before we can even think about widening our audience. (Crap doesn’t become less crap just because more people can run it. We need to make something awesome that people want to use and then we can think about how to support a wider audience.)

Once we have something people want, porting an experience to another platform is easier than trying to iterate an experience across multiple platforms, each with their own cultural idiosyncracies.

Why Mac?

Why Mac and iOS? Because, of the platforms that exist, they offer the unique combination of being focussed on user experience and not being spyware. They also offer the tools a small team needs in order to create a beautiful, accessible product with relatively few resources.

Yes, Apple’s platforms are closed but, unlike Google, their business model is not to spy on you. Apple makes its money by selling products to its customers (who are its users). Google, in contrast, sells its users to its customers.

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

Finally, all of us at use Macs and so we are both familiar with the culture of the platform and we will be eating our own dog food, as it were.

I know that this won’t make everyone happy but we can’t do that anyway. It’s silly to even try. But what we can do is focus our energies as much as possible so that even a tiny team like ours has a fighting chance of making a product that can make a difference.

Coming up in January…

You might have noticed that we already simplified the site. We will continue to iterate to simplify it even further in the days head.

I am continuing to work on Heartbeat and I believe it’s time that we set some hard deadlines:

I will be releasing an internal build of the pre-alpha for the team on 19th January and we will start opening it up to those of you who signed up for the private pre-alpha on 26th January.

Here’s to seeing you on Heartbeat soon.

Aral has written a follow-up on his own blog.