A social network that attracted attention last year for its strong privacy features has quietly disappeared off the Web.
The death of Syme, which appears to have gone offline some time in the past few months, is testimony that even in a booming market like social networking, there will be winners and losers.
Syme allowed its users to chat and share content over a fully encrypted network. The site launched not long after Edward Snowden blew the lid off the U.S. government’s aggressive surveillance tactics, which created an appetite for greater security and privacy on the Web.
“The website is no longer running,” Syme co-founder Louis Mullie said Friday in an email. He and his fellow co-founders didn’t respond to messages seeking further details.
The site appears to have been operating on Aug. 29, judging by a snapshot taken by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
Syme’s most recent tweet was in April, when it said it had addressed the Internet’s Heartbleed security bug.
Syme may be eventually revived in some form, as the open-source code to the platform was released on Github. “We hope the project does live on,” Mullie said in his email.
Syme had Facebook-like elements, allowing people to post status updates, photos and files, but all content was encrypted in the browser before it left a computer. Mobile apps for iOS and Android were planned but apparently never released.
Its downfall is a shame, in part because enabling end-to-end encryption for consumers is a tough challenge, and one the company hoped to achieve.
“The overarching goal of Syme is to make encryption accessible and easy to use for people who aren’t geeks or aren’t hackers or who aren’t cryptography experts,” said co-founder Jonathan Hershon late last year.
Meanwhile new social networks are still springing up. Ello, the flavor of the week right now in alternative social media, promises greater privacy than Facebook, but doesn’t have Syme’s full encryption.
Ello is still a small operation, run by a guy in Vermont who also owns a bike company.
Syme was operated by three students at McGill University in Montreal; perhaps their studies got in the way.
Other social networking or messaging apps promising privacy that are still alive include Cryptocat, Gliph and Wickr.