What is Momenel, the new privacy-first social network (Updated)

As of now, it's a fairly small community, but that doesn't keep it from dreaming big.

What is Momenel, the new privacy-first social network (Updated)
Image Credit: Momenel

Update: Momenel recently released a major update adding many of the missing features mentioned in the article. This includes, but is not limited to, a new For You page, dark mode, push notifications, improved commenting, better hyperlinks in posts, and more.

The update makes Momenel an even more viable alternative to classic big tech social media platforms. Initially, push notifications didn't play nicely with microG, but this was addressed fairly quickly. So, if you're like me and use something like CalyxOS or LineageOS for microG on your Android device, even you'll benefit from push notifications.

Unfortunately, in a recent post, co-founder Farhan Haider admitted "major updates will be on hold for a couple of months" while Momenel prioritizes "user base expansion and raising funds."

Though this means no new features in the short term, he also clarifies Momenel will still address critical bugs, so improved security and usability remain a primary focus. Hopefully, this decision benefits the longevity of the platform.

In recent years, large social media corporations like Facebook Meta and Twitter X have developed a habit of harming their users, whether via data breaches, unethical privacy policies, or even unjustified censorship. Due, in part, to these companies' shady business practices, there's been a surge in demand for consumer respecting alternatives, enter new and upcoming open-source alternative--Momenel.

Until now, there have been a few other free and open-source projects to attempt filling that niche, most of which offer decentralized alternatives to existing proprietary solutions. For example, Mastodon and Nostr are federated X (formerly Twitter) alternatives, while Pixelfed is a federated alternative to Instagram. Momenel is the latest entry in that fight, but it's a little different from this new wave of social media: it's centralized.

What is Momenel?

An image highlighting that Momenel users can post photos, videos, and text poss.
Image Credit: Momenel

Momenel bills itself as a "privacy-first social media app." At first glance, the app looks similarly to Instagram, but its intended function is more akin to X (formerly Twitter). Momenel allows text, photo, and/or video posts, and users can follow each other freely just like any other social network.

The big difference between Momenel and something like Mastodon, is that the former is centralized, so there's no fussing around with finding a fitting server. Not only that, but Momenel also plans on rolling out its own tipping system in the future, though that's nowhere to be found in the app's current state.

What makes Momenel different?

Various Momenel posts stacked chronologically highlighting the platform will have a chronological feed.
Image Credit: Momenel

The team behind Momenel promise it won't be like mainstream centralized social networks. It claims Momenel has no data collection, no user tracking, and no algorithmic attention manipulation.

In fact, the team tout Momenel as a beacon of privacy, fairness, and an overall easier to use alternative to the competition. And since Momenel's apps and back-end are all AGPL 3.0 licensed, privacy and security researchers around the world will be able to easily verify these claims.

How does the built-in tipping system work?

A Momenel post example of a woman and her cat highlighting and unknown tipping system
Image Credit: Momenel

As of now, we don't really know how Momenel's tipping system works. Once the feature rolls out, Momenel claims it will offer a 70% tipping payout to recipients. That means whenever you tip one of your favorite creators, Momenel will only take 30% "to cover platform fees and expenses."

The tipping related imagery on the website leads me to believe users will conduct payments via some sort of cryptocurrency, but that's just conjecture at this point. All we know for certain is what percentage of tips creators will receive and that everyone will be eligible to send and receive funds.

Though this tipping system could be a decent way to fund the project given it won't receive any ad revenue, LBRY and Odysee have had their fair share of legal issues with a similar crypto-tipping model. If Momenel go this route, I believe they have an uphill battle to fight.

Closing thoughts: Should you sign up for Momenel?

Three screenshots of the Momenel app hovering over a black background and the words "privacy-first social"
Image Credit: Momenel

Now, this isn't a review of Momenel, so I won't bombard you my detailed thoughts about it. What I will say is my first impressions are that the platform is bare bones. Whether it be the lack of features or even the relatively small user base, Momenel is quite sparse.

The current feature set is limited to posting, liking other posts, commenting, replying to comments, and following other users. There is no stories functionality, comment conversations are hard to follow, and Momenel lacks many standard features we've all grown accustomed to. This includes, but is not limited to, multi-factor authentication, direct messaging, and even notifications.

That being said, Momenel is still fresh out of the oven, and the team seem anxious to implement new features.

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In a short conversation I had on Momenel with one of its founders, Farhan Haider, regarding the app's upcoming dark mode, he said "The way momenel is going to be different is by listening to our users!"

And this may best thing about Momenel right now. The project is young, and it's fun to be a part of something new. Plus, you get direct contact with Farhan and the Momenel team thanks to the current footprint of the network. But, if it keeps growing, that may become more challenging.

I've had a Momenel account since the Android app released on July 27. Since then, they've also launched on iOS, so you can download the app and sign-up on whichever platform you use. Web usage should be available sometime in the future, but unfortunately the app isn't currently on F-Droid and I haven't found a compiled APK for users to sideload.

With all that in mind, I think it's worth giving Momenel a try. Just remember the team have yet to prove their security chops, so dot your I's and cross your T's when you decide what password and email address to use. It is early days after all.

You can download Momenel from your preferred app store below.