The average person has eight social media accounts, and each one has its own purpose: for example, LinkedIn is for work, and Facebook is for friends and family. While users enjoy expressing themselves online in such different ways, there is no denying that these platforms add complexity and privacy concerns to people’s already busy days. To solve these issues, Hang Dinh worked with three other senior software engineers to found ExtentWorld in 2020.
There is a lot of knowledge behind the social media platform. Each co-founder has a PhD in computer science and engineering from the University of Connecticut. Additionally, Hang is a tenured associate professor of computer and information sciences at Indiana University South Bend. “That’s one reason I knew what we wanted to do would work,” Hang says. “We’ve got the know-how to tackle the problems that frustrate millions of people.”
ExtentWorld was Hang’s brother’s idea. “He was bothered by how Facebook uses targeted ads to exploit users’ personal data through targeted ads,” Hang explains. “My brother believed this use of data was unethical, and he immediately stopped using social media to think about what he could do to fight back against this.”
Her brother had the idea of building a new social media platform that would not only protect its users’ private data but also reward them for their engagement. “ Social media would be nothing without user contribution, so that reward is only fair. Ultimately, the idea was to make our site be a one-stop social media platform. ExtentWorld was born.”
Initially, Hang was skeptical of her brother’s idea since even a standard social media platform would require at least thirty full-time developers. That did not even take into account all the additional great features that he had in mind.
Hang couldn’t shake the idea, however. “It stayed with me because I was teaching a course that discussed privacy policies of social media. Therefore, I was even more aware than the average social media user how far privacy concerns reach. I knew that Facebook tracks your internet browsing history. This completely changed my perspective, as like most people, I simply do not like to be spied on, and I knew my brother was on to something big.”
Hang’s brother, in the meantime, invented two code-generating tools. This enabled ExtentWorld to be developed by just three developers, and as the engineers worked on the new platform, Hang saw how it was different from sites like Facebook. She especially liked its end-to-end encrypted video calling. She could now connect with her family in Vietnam and Germany without concerns about privacy. “I was sold. Once we launched ExtentWorld in 2020, I finally took the big step and deleted my Facebook account.”
To help her brother’s product realize its full potential, she formed ExtentWorld LLC. “That was definitely a step outside of my comfort zone,” Hang remembers. “I read up on forming and running businesses so that I could step in and run the company while my brother focuses on programming and coding.”
ExtentWorld has many capabilities that differentiate it from other social media platforms. One is that a user has one account with up to eight different profiles: public, private, work, academic, dating, merchant, anonymous, and secret. ExtentWorld also provides a dating service with rules that are designed to maximize the user’s privacy.
Information on ExtentWorld is organized based on locations. Each location, such as a city or a country, has a forum where the users interested in that place can view and post. However, for a location at the national level, ExtentWorld restricts free posts to people with a high reputation score.
These features have led to more investors, who may purchase eShare, which is a pre-IPO ExtentWorld common share. ExtentWorld uses eCoin for all transactions within ExtentWorld; eCoin is virtual currency but not cryptocurrency.
Hang sees a big future for ExtentWorld. “I think the social media landscape will continue to be dominated by big players for a while, but we are gaining traction as more people who are tired of their privacy being violated find out about us. Users are becoming more aware of the issues with mainstream social media and are turning to use for the solution. We already have registered users from 25 countries.”
The most challenging task for ExtentWorld’s creators has been marketing. “We are academic and technical people – we can build a good product, but we are not natural marketers. We have had to learn everything about marketing from zero,” Hang states. “In Vietnamese, we have a saying: ‘Vạn sự khởi đầu nan,’ which means ‘All things are difficult before they are easy.’ Thankfully, because of what we have learned, marketing has been becoming easier.”
As ExtentWorld continues to evolve and strengthen into the co-founders’ vision, Hang is excited about the company’s future. “For too long, social media users were stuck with limited options because of the monopoly of Facebook and other platforms,” she says.