Freedom: Intentional Website Blocker + App

An image of three smart phones, all with the Freedom app on the screen.

One of our core values is “Design to Disconnect”, meaning designing to let people stay in their moment; knowing when to interrupt and when to stay quiet and allowing humans to control their own time. The website blocker and app Freedom is striving to do this by allowing people to stay intentional in their online use. We love Freedom’s mission statement: “To develop better ways of interacting with technology that make people happier, healthier, and more productive.” We caught up with Fred Stutzman, Freedom’s CEO, to learn more.

Tell us how Freedom works.

Freedom is a platform for blocking distractions on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. We want to be the one place where users can go and turn off all the noise–and that’s what our product does.

What is the goal of your app and website blocker?

The bigger picture is we’re helping people think about how they spend their time most effectively. We’ve been in the space for a number of years. There are lots of problems with technology overuse and social media overuse and phone addiction. Our belief is that this stuff is not bad, but the developers of social media and our devices have no incentive to give people control. We’re taking that step so users can find the right balance of their time.

 
An image of a computer screen. It is on the Instagram website but the Freedom Chrome extension has blocked it and instead there is an image of a butterfly and the words, “You are free from instagram.com"
 

What inspired you to create Freedom?

I wrote the first version of Freedom when I was in graduate school. I would go to this one coffee shop to write and the coffee shop did not have Wi-Fi. This was many years ago before we had ubiquitous, fast connections, so it was a pretty effective place to go and write. Then one day they opened up Wi-Fi and I started thinking about it. I said, “Well, we’re probably not going to go back.” How can we actually find time to be away from the distractions of technology, the distractions of the Internet and then the things that would follow?

I wrote Freedom as a desktop app that just turned off the Internet. It’s become more sophisticated, but the premise is still simple. It’s actually kind of hard to get away from this stuff, and not just behaviorally but technically. It’s not like our computers come with a button to turn it off. I thought, why don’t I make it easy for people to turn off the noise? That effectively turns the user’s computer or their phone or tablet, whatever, back into a device that they can actually get some work done on. The creation of Freedom came from trying to solve my own problem and I very quickly realized that a lot of other people had that problem and were interested in a solution.

How do you see this project contributing value to the mindful technology community?

We’re hoping to be a leader in the mindful tech space. We want to show that people can build a product that people value, that solves a very real problem, and grow sustainably as a company. So many companies today base their revenue model on the selling of behavioral data; we wanted to build something that people would value and pay for, without having to resort to these kind of models. Beyond that, our goal is to legitimize the space (something that was a little more difficult a few years ago) by creating software that helps people on a large scale. We’re still getting there!

 
An image of a computer screen with the Freedom extension being used to schedule blocked websites.
 

What advice would you give others who are trying to build technology for a better world?

Ours is a very challenging space, because many people need the solutions provided by mindful tech, but traditional funding models are not geared to support the kind of business models we embrace. Being a mindful technology company is more than the product you create –it is your company’s culture, your business model–they must all be aligned to create impactful products. Even with these challenges, the market is so vast, and the need so dire, I encourage companies to build in the space.

What does mindful technology mean to you?

Mindful technology is a big concept, and the area we’ve focused on is giving people back control over technology. I think one thing that ties together many of the vendors in the mindful tech space is that we build enabling technology. How we do this differs, but our mission is to use technology to bring people back to the forefront in the human/tech relationship.

What can we expect next from you and how can people follow along?

We’re working on many interesting things! As we continue to develop our product, we’re thinking about how to holistically support people as they seek technology/life balance. We’re also constantly developing new experiments, like our Pause Chrome extension that simply asks users to pause for a few seconds before visiting a distraction.

You can check out Freedom at our website, and follow along on our Twitter.


Find out more about Freedom by visiting their website and watching the short video below.

 
 

All images from Freedom.

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