Here we are, at the big 1-0!
To celebrate our 10th birthday, we created an awesome print magazine, but the stories were too good not to bring them to life online.
Lots of businesses like to tell you what they believe in. But there’s a difference between looking at a company’s values painted on a wall – however stylishly – and examining how those principles guide their decision-making in the real world. WeTransfer believes in trust. But shouldn’t all companies? Very good question.
Trust is an interesting measuring stick for companies. For some reason we’re still splitting our view into two groups. We expect a real-world fashion brand or ice cream shop to exude a set of values to appeal to us and chime with our own. Yet we don’t apply the same expectations to companies we think of as tech businesses. Somehow, different rules apply to them.
Considering the definition of “tech company” is constantly changing and evolving, this seems slightly unfair. Conventional tech companies are no longer the only tech companies out there. H&M and adidas are now in the same classification as Uber. There is no separation, so there shouldn’t be a separate definition of “trust” for tech companies. When will we gain people’s trust online as well as offline? At WeTransfer, we believe the time is now. Actually, we were believing the time is now years ago, when we trusted our users enough to refrain from asking for a sign up after creating possibly the world’s simplest service.
Here is the most powerful educational tool of all time. Yet it’s run by companies who don’t want you to learn too much – at least, not about their own practices. Here is a realm of connectivity and transparency – for some. But certainly not when it comes to how your data is being used by Google or Facebook.
Here are companies awash with the imagery of freedom, with talk of limitless exploration, boundary breaking, “rebellion,” “punk rock,” cutting of ties, cutting wires, cutting social constraints. All these freedoms can be yours ‒ as long as you’re bound with an unbreakable tie to the companies in powerful, secretive, ever-replenishing and shape-shifting ways embedded in their terms and conditions.
Here are companies in positions of power unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. But these positions come with dangerous vulnerabilities. There’s vulnerability in their hypocrisy. They’re vulnerable in the way they ask us to trust them without offering much trust in return.
As we live longer in the digital world and learn more, there will be a growing number who see past the obfuscation and begin to fashion new kinds of online lives. There will always be a frantic, shrill chorus from the incumbent powers, telling dissenters they’re doing the wrong thing, that the status quo is natural. They’ll offer new baubles: more “free” storage space; more “free” products; a lot more “freedom” that isn’t really freedom.
But it’s precarious. It’s all based on us accepting – and continuing to accept, ad infinitum – our new roles: endlessly used, endlessly drained, endlessly providing companies with our data, our natural resources, for free.
It’s at this kind of inflection point when some companies head in a new direction. WeTransfer is one of those companies.
Gaps are opening for companies, like ours, who will approach the future with a different attitude. Now is the time, the dawn, for the inadvertent pioneers. That’s us. We’re just a few folk from the design world. We didn’t expect to pioneer anything, and I wouldn’t lump us in with any of the truly great pioneers of history, or the internet (or even data transfer), but here we are. Inadvertently.
WeTransfer believe in responsible tech. This means not only respect for our customers, but respect for the world at large. Respect for previous traditions and modes of interacting with others, respect for the beauty of privacy, of sanctuary, of core human values that can never be disrupted, trampled and scorned.
Respect – for people, for employees, for minorities, for whomever – also extends to respect for oversight.
If you’re in this industry, you’ll know things shift. Momentum shifts; ideas change; that thing you were dedicating 20% of your mind to suddenly becomes the most important idea in the company. Compass bearings change. The territory you reach doesn’t always resemble the map you unfurled at the beginning of the journey.
We’re inadvertently part of a movement, some weird and ragtag vanguard in which we all look around and think: “Are we doing this? Is this possible? In an age of scale and buy-outs and playing fields tilted in favour of the fast-moving, rule-trampling, behemoths, is this actually going on?” It seems to be.
In the early 1900s there was a shift against the synthetic nitrogen fertilizers that were starting to become widespread. There was anger over what we were being asked to consume. No one could have imagined the pushback would transform itself into the multibillion-dollar organics industry. Will some form of Responsible Tech ever be worth that much?
We believe it will. It’s worth being on the right side of history. There shouldn’t be one definition of trust out there in the world of bricks and mortar and another for the online world. We trust our users feel the same.