Our promise to creators

by the Mira Team

We get asked often, why is Mira still in private beta? When can I use it?

The answer we provide to that question remains the same: when we can finish building the features necessary to support mass adoption without disrupting the ecosystem within which we work.

Newsletter writers use all sorts of tools to publish their content: Substack, Ghost, Mailchimp, Revue, et cetera... but they also depend on those tools functioning the way they intend -- and readers reading in the way those tools are designed for -- to monetize their work, understand their audience, and grow.

When we were tinkering with different methods to serve content to Mira users, we learned that simply displaying the contents of a user's existing inbox would pose several major privacy and usability problems for our users. To start, we'd be responsible for scanning (and keeping safe!) all the emails in a user's private inbox, which is a responsibility we didn't want nor suspected our users would want to give to us either. We'd also have to restrict use of our service to Google users, meaning if you weren't already part of the Google ecosystem or voluntarily wanted to opt out of that ecosystem (hello, Hey users!), tough luck. We didn't think that was the right way to go.

Alternatively, we could provide you with a custom email address to subscribe to each newsletter. This would mean that subscriptions couldn't be "frictionless" -- you'd need to create a custom address, subscribe to each newsletter, verify each subscription, and you couldn't port over your existing subscriptions easily. To top that off, as Substack associates paid subscriptions with a single email address, porting over your paid Substack subscriptions would be a nightmare. As our goal with building Mira is to make newsletters as frictionless as, say, podcasts or music streaming, this wouldn't do as well.

So, we settled on the method we use to serve content: saving a temporary copy of each email we receive from newsletter sources so we can parse its contents and give users controls like font size, dyslexia support, dark mode, et cetera without needing to store irrelevant sensitive information from our users.

This method is not without its problems. Chiefly, as our goal is to make a seamless newsletter reading platform precisely so creators are able to reach more readers and grow their audiences, we'd need to figure out a way to ensure creators still received the analytics and subscription data they would normally receive, not to mention ensure that only users who were actively paying for subscriptions to content would receive said content, and any embedded ads would continue to work. For our users, we also needed to figure out a mechanism by which users could leave Mira, but not leave their subscriptions behind (thus hurting the creators we want to support).

Our interim solution is to do the following:

  1. Manually onboard each user, to manually migrate each and every subscription they have not currently supported by Mira;
  2. Scan for "Unsubscribe" or "Payment cancelled" emails, so we can "unsubscribe" users from newsletters not supported by Mira (and not permit them to continue accessing paid content);
  3. Generate a custom forwarding email (that keeps working even after users leave Mira, if they wish) that allows us to parse the newsletter contents and display them to users, and to allow our users to leave Mira at any time without unreasonable friction.
  4. Using that custom forwarding email, we subscribe to each newsletter source. This means creators can depend on their "subscriber numbers" being accurate, regardless of whether or not some users are using Mira.

This method has its problems, however. We are currently working on a solution for "opens", so creators' analytics properly reflect the actual amount of user engagement on each issue. But as that hasn't been completed yet, we don't feel comfortable releasing Mira to the public.

It's quite arrogant of us to assume that Mira will "get big" -- and to be honest, we built Mira largely for ourselves and our friends who love newsletters as much as we do, to solve a personal problem. But those who build new products ought to think through the implications of that which they build, and even if just a small number of people ever use our product, we want to sleep soundly knowing we've done all we can to make sure "user-first" doesn't require any compromise on our commitment to creators.

If you'd like to request that your newsletter is blacklisted from Mira, please click here and we will process your request quickly. Alternatively, if you are open to working with us to make sure your analytics are processed properly, let us know as well and we will do our best to help.

Happy reading,

The Mira Team

This post was last updated on Dec 4, 2020.