The somewhat well-worn cliché ‘there’s an app for that’ is typically voiced with a derisory tone these days, and for good reason. There really is an app for everything, and the afterlife is no different.
Last year we reported on a new Facebook app that allows you to record a message that will be shared with your friends and family only when you die. If I Die lets you leave a video message and select three trustees that will be appointed to hold your message. It takes all three of those trustees to say that you are actually dead before the message is released to all friends and family.
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Then there’s the likes of 1000Memories, which is a ‘permanent’ online repository for photos, stories and other content, which has a mission to provide “a safe place for your memories so that they can be passed down to future generations.”
Now, a new UK-based startup is looking to tap into this ‘market’ and build a company that specializes in letting users continue their social networking long after they’ve shuffled off this mortal coil and entered the great beyond.
DeadSocial lets users create a calendar of ‘secret’, timed messages which are distributed across the social sphere – Facebook, Twitter and Google+ – simultaneously after a user passes away. “This allows for communication and creativity to occur in death and those final messages to be told,” says Norris.
“DeadSocial explores the notion of digital legacy and how we can extend our digital life through technology and the social Web,” he continues. “This is especially apparent once a user connects their DeadSocial account to Facebook, and their ‘Facebook Timeline’ continues even after death.”
It’s an interesting one for sure. 3.24% of all Facebook accounts belong to the deceased, according to Norris. And this number will likely increase – but do we really want messages from the other side? Does the ‘If I Die’ app take this concept as far as it needs to go, by letting a single, solitary message be sent upon death?
This is certainly likely to divide opinions. And on the surface, there are some inherent problems that must be addressed.
Firstly, there’s the issue of planning. Many – dare I say, the majority – of social media users probably wouldn’t plan messages for after they’re gone, especially if they don’t know they’re going to die. Obviously death, like taxes, is one of life’s certainties, but I think at the moment this could be restricted to those who know their days are numbered.
Sure, there will come a point when digital natives reach an age where they’ll be thinking about wills and maybe leaving messages after they’re deceased. But I can’t help feel this is some years away before there is a significant market for this.
Furthermore, Facebook may be showing no signs of slowing, but what about 10, 20 or 30 years from now? Well, Norris has a simple solution for that. Whatever the preeminent social network might be at the time, he says, they can plug DeadSocial into that, though it’s not clear who the deceased would be speaking to if they don’t have any friends on that social network. This is all speculative anyway, as we don’t really know what the social networks of the future will be like.
Of course, the content would still live on within DeadSocial itself, so if the family and friends want to continue to read updates, they can.
Assuming everything else comes together, what about the business model here? DeadSocial will be free for all users. Forever. But Norris says one plan is to incorporate premium accounts targeting high-profile celebrity Facebook pages. Norris says that celebrities may have things to say that they otherwise might not have wanted to say whilst they were alive.
There’s a number of other potential revenue avenues DeadSocial may focus on, though it’s not yet clear what these could be.
But wait…how does it know when you’re dead? Simple.
“Users give access to their DeadSocial account to a loved one,” says Norris. “This can be a family member or a third party asked to activate it in their will. A mechanism will be built-in where the user will be able to define: ‘If I do not log-in to Facebook over x-amount of time, my messages will be sent out’. This will be after a verification process, of course. However, with the upcoming ‘Facebook token’ changes, we are unsure when this feature will be developed.”
The story so far…
Norris tells us he has been working on DeadSocial, full-time, for three months and is bringing a CTO on board. He first had the idea about five years ago after British comedian Bob Monkhouse appeared in a prostate cancer advert several years after his death:
After a number of variations of the idea came and went, he eventually decided on DeadSocial as we see it today.
It seems here that there are a number of ways such a platform could be used. You could time a few farewell messages to friends on Facebook, or plan for years into the future, sending messages to grandchildren that haven’t yet been born. Indeed, such a platform won’t appeal to everyone, but if executed well, it could find itself having somewhat of a cult following. At any rate, we’ll certainly be keeping tabs on this to see how it progresses in the future.
So, whether you want to leave a humorous ‘I told you I was ill…’ status update, a poignant farewell, or feed your social media addiction long after you’re belly-up in the ground, DeadSocial could be the answer to your prayers.