Symphony: Fixing Email, Collaboration and Social Networking

A new tool currently in beta combines email and social capabilities with the security that many industries need.

Earlier this month I was introduced to a company called Symphony, and it fascinated me. The name was identical to my favorite Lotus product, which was an Office-like suite that was far better integrated than Microsoft Office was at the time. Like the original Lotus Symphony, this new offering blends ideas ranging from email to social media with a healthy dose of security as a wrapper.

The new Symphony is backed by fifteen of the most powerful financial institutions in the world, and it was initially designed to provide a unique solution for sell-side financial analyst firms. But the offering has far broader potential utility, and it could actually fix Twitter.

Social Media vs. Email

Social media and email are actually very similar. The big difference is that email is a one-to-one medium that can do one-to-many, and social media is one-to-many which can also do one-to-one. It has kind of amazed me that the email vendors didn’t just embrace social media or that the social media vendors didn’t embrace email. Granted the user interfaces are a bit different, but the core technology actually isn’t. And both are presented as assisting in collaboration.

There is one bigger difference, however, and that is privacy. Currently most business email systems promise privacy and security as a primary feature while most social media platforms exchange free services for access and the ability to sell information that may be contained in (though generally abstracted from) your posts. So while the tools are very similar, the businesses are not.

What if someone decided to create a truly blended social media email product? Embrace the security aspects of email but provide the one-to-many benefits of social media?

That is effectively what Symphony is.


Symphony is a platform that was designed from the ground up to be very secure (largely because it had stock trading companies as founding customers) but also embraced the one-to-many utility of a social network. It was envisioned as a primary way that sell-side analyst firms could communicate with their clients without creating insider trading or security problems. Think of it as a secure blend of email and social media.

The service is encrypted, and only the customers have the keys. Junk data is inserted into the data streams, making it nearly impossible to decrypt the communications fast enough to determine even broad trends in interests.

This same level of security should be able to meet needs in a broad variety of additional markets like market and business intelligence and protected intellectual property.

Currently the offering isn’t released yet, but it is in broad beta. The reason it is so broadly backed is because it serves a critical purpose for the financial institutions that are funding it.

Fixing Twitter

The problem with Twitter is that, like most of its peers, monetizing the product came after creating it. And they discovered that ads just aren’t working well enough to support the offering.

But if they were to create a peer product like Symphony that could be sold and that provided a far more secure solution for governments, health care, finance, and any other groups concerned about security, it could get the revenue it needs. The free product could serve as a marketing effort under a freemium like model. You have a free product with ads that isn’t secure or a product you pay for that doesn’t have ads and is secure. The second funds the company, and the old product becomes an excellent way to market the new one.

Rethinking Email and Social Networking

Symphony is a fascinating product. Its name pulls from technology history and means a harmonious blend of elements both then and now. In this instance it is a blend of social networking, workflow and email into a collaboration platform which is unique in the market with a security layer that allows it to meet the unique needs of markets where this is a priority. It could also showcase a path that could eventually fix Twitter’s revenue and profit problem.

In the end, Symphony got me thinking differently about what email and social networking should be. Perhaps you should as well. Something to noodle on this week.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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