Mello in 2022: Where we are, and where we're going

Since July 2019, we’ve been working off-and-on on the design of Mello’s interfaces, the general scope of how the backend will operate, and, arguably one of the most important details, the content to be loaded for the app. Through countless iterations, we finally have reached the point of having an intuitive and accessible interface for users of Mello.

One of the major decisions that we made recently was if we would end up making registration required or not. We had looked through numerous authentication services, as well as considered crafting our own. They all had their pitfalls, but also all had their advantages over one another. Ultimately, we’ve decided it best to scrap registration from the app altogether. Although this makes it harder to fight against spam to our CDN and could ultimately result in higher costs, assuming a perfect world, it could net lower costs from not needing to invest into databasing and instead authenticating with a public S3 bucket.

One pitfall of not having registration is making data syncing far harder. It would ultimately mean that syncing your data with the web app would no longer be possible, as there would be no common connection that could be made. What we’ve done to remediate this is to allow plain-text and zero-knowledge storage to some common storage providers to allow the user to locally connect to those providers to view your settings. Although we haven’t cemented what storage providers we will support yet, some providers being considered are Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft OneDrive.

One of the other crucial decisions was how to handle funding. Everything we craft for Mello comes at an ultimate cost, even if it’s the development team working on it as well. We’ve decided to allow donations and passively promote it through the app as a simple banner on the settings view, as well as the “Library” view. Donations will be handled via Liberapay, allowing us to transparently show our income and how income is handled to fund our team. Every quarter where we receive donations, we’ll also provide spending reports to further our transparency with spending.

The obvious pitfall of donations is that it is not a stable alternative to a paid subscription that many similar apps use. We’re creating this app out of a labour of love, and not seeking a profit; as nice as it would be to live off this service, we’d rather see costs covered, more content coming to Mello, and more lives helped through our service.

We’re constantly making new decisions, and, although everything aforementioned has been decided, it is “wet cement”; meaning that we may still change things with user feedback and better insight from inside and outside collaborators. We hope to bring Mello to the masses by Fall 2023, and we can’t wait for you to see the hard work that we’re putting in into it.

Written by Matt Ronchetto • 9 January, 2021