Behind the Curtains: The Birth of Yaad

Ali Khaleqi Yekta

A mountain road view with the bright Yaad logo behind the mountains, glowing in the dark.

Hi. I'm Ali Khaleqi Yekta, the founder of Yaad.

This is the long story of building Yaad from scratch. Even though I stood on the shoulders of giants, I would've never imagined the significant depth of the path ahead of me. Starting from before the main story, It was September 19, 2018. I was a high school student at the moment. That day, I published the first release of an app called "لحظات من" (which means "My Moments") in an Iranian Android app store. As the name suggests, the app was a digital Memoir, meant for storing memories.

Everything was going smoothly until the Konkour train of 2020 hit me hard. I had to kiss the keyboard goodbye for an entire year if I wanted an acceptable result (Spoiler: I despised every second of it). During that year, I used to daydream about the day I would finish Konkour. My thoughts would drift towards the sweetness of coding, and how I could improve that app, and other apps I made to that day.

The ideas started small, from bug fixes, minor changes, etc., and grew larger into things like syncing, a desktop version, etc. I used to write them down to come back to them in the future. As time passed, I realized these features were beyond "My Moments"; beyond writing memories. I realized the potential. "Why only memories? Why not everything?" And on that day, that spark made a fire flaming up to this very day. I lived with that idea.

After passing Konkour, I published two more releases for My Moments, and I went on to live my life, with that flame dancing in my mind. The flame of creating a system that can hold onto one's data for life. That was a great vision. I kept the vision. It was, and is an enormous amount of hassle. I had no idea of what was awaiting me on this journey. The amount of work required to make Yaad what it is today is something I couldn't imagine was possible at the moment. The amount of time spent thinking, the pressure, the thousands of lines of code, the design decisions.

To complete my vision on my own, I must've become a one-man army. I started researching about how to implement Yaad. I started studying available solutions. What I found out was:

  • Most of them are built on top of web technologies, which is not the most efficient choice.
  • Some are offline, and most of the others store the user data on the server, with no encryption at all, making the data readable by anyone who in theory can or will access the servers; be it a result of a data breach, or just a bad actor existing. This is unacceptable for a software system that has the burden of holding onto one's life.

So, my requirements for the imagined "Second Brain" were:

  • It must be theoretically impenetrable from the outside, at least throughout one's lifespan.
  • It must be end-to-end encrypted.
  • It must not require an internet connection.
  • It should be native.
  • It should be multiplatform.
  • It shouldn't be written in JavaScript (don't ask me why!).

I spent two years casually reading about it, writing documents, and learning about new technologies while being a university student. This was my first mistake in this journey. I should've built prototypes and expanded my skill set in creating a second brain over and over again, instead of drowning in the theory of it and reading about Native vs. React Native vs. Flutter vs. Cordova vs. Compose Multiplatform vs. [INSERT_YOUR_FRAMEWORK_HERE].

I wrote Yaad for a month. It ended up being so over-engineered that I found it easier to start from scratch. Around that time, I made my first open-source contribution, to PeopleInSpace (shout out to its kind and active maintainer John O'Reilly!). This contribution helped me a lot with my own project's configurations. After that, the actual writing phase of Yaad began with the first Git commit of Yaad on February 12, 2022.

This phase taught me a lot of lessons. I literally grew up, spent numerous nights and days coding, and transformed every bit of energy into lines of code. Long story long, the vision I had as a high school graduate is today available as the software you're seeing. This phase is still ongoing (with 7,658 total commits at the time of writing). Yaad still has a long journey ahead of it, and I'm both intimidated by its magnitude and optimistic about what's to come.

Ali Khaleqi Yekta,

May 8, 2024