Over 3.2 billion people use social media worldwide. However, as these networks continue to expand, many have noted that the relationships with those closest to us tend to get left behind. Your best friends, former coworkers, relatives, friends from elementary school and distant acquaintances are all grouped together.
Most social media networks offer a way to filter people into groups, but there’s still the matter of actually taking the time to keep up with your close friends and family in cyberspace. Connecting with close friends and family online often happens off these platforms—usually in WhatsApp, Messenger, FaceTime or text messaging.
Former Facebook employees Sachin Monga and Alex Cornell founded Cocoon to escape this problem.
“This is my home on my phone,” Monga told Quartz. His Cocoon group consists of his parents in Toronto, Canada, and his sisters who live on opposite coasts in the US, in New York and San Francisco. “We haven’t shared a physical home in 17 years, but we’re still a family, and we thought there should be sophisticated software to handle that. It’s seemingly obvious that there should be an app on your phone for the most important people in your life.”
Available on iOS, Cocoon offers updates to keep up with a group of family members or close friends, up to a dozen people. The groups are closed and, at the moment, it appears that users can only opt into one group.
“The vast majority of your groups are probably better off with the simplicity of a typical messaging or social app,” Monga wrote on the company’s website. “But the primary group that you consider to be as close as family — especially if you live apart — deserves its own space to call home.”
Automatic status updates let others in your group know about your location and activity—as much or as little as you want. Saved places in the app can also be automatically updated to let the group know when you’re working or at home. Cocoon aims to create an “ambient presence” to work in the background to help you stay connected to those closest to you, despite the distance.
When more than one member of the group is online at the same time, they can speak directly or video chat. Users can also send silent notifications to say hi without directly disrupting that person’s day.
Unlike messenger apps, which offer a chronological feed of posts, Cocoon offers the opportunity to chat in clusters—just like in real life.
“We wanted to remove all barriers to sharing mundane moments or interactions,” Monga said. “It’s up to us as technologists to help people communicate as they want.”
The app is currently free and has no ads, but the company plans on introducing a paid subscription plan. Backed by Y Combinator, the company has raised $3 million in funding.
“Building a worthy home base for your most cherished relationships is a tall order, and a mission that we’re taking seriously,” Monga wrote.