It had been a few years since I got really excited about a new application or a new service — but I’m happy to report that the drought has ended. Over the past three months, I have come across at least four fantastic applications that made me fall in love with the Internet all over again. I will eventually write about all of them, but for now, I want to focus on a new service: HEY1.
Hey is a brand new product from the folks behind Basecamp, a collaboration and productivity software company. What is most exciting about this new service is that it reimagines the very idea of something we use every day and, perhaps, curse every other hour. Email.
They have turned the idea of email — and how we interact with it — on its head. I got a demo a few days back from CEO Jason Fried. (I recently interviewed Jason on my Stuck@Om podcast2.) I am seriously stoked about this and can’t wait for it to launch sometime in June 2020 or soon after. I can’t go into the details — I gave Jason my word, and old habits die hard.
Still, I can’t contain my excitement because someone has actually built what I wished for all the way back in July 2007. In a column for Business 2.0 (sadly, no longer in business,) I wrote3:
E-mail became the Internet’s first killer app — and therein lies the problem. As software goes, e-mail is almost socialist: From each according to his ability, to each whether or not he needs it.
Here’s where e-mail’s socialism turns from strength to weakness: It doesn’t matter if the message comes from a spammer hawking Viagra, your wife asking you to pick up some wine, your boss telling the company that Monday is a holiday, or a client asking for a meeting at his office at 11 a.m. In today’s inboxes, all e-mail messages are equal.
In reality, of course, some are more equal than others. Spam, alerts, and calendar items all need to be treated separately. A smart inbox would — all in one interface — catch spam in junk filters, display the wine reminder in an IM, move company news to an RSS feed, and intelligently negotiate appointment requests with your calendar in the background.
All these technologies exist — it’s just a matter of pulling them together. The payoff could be huge. If Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo aren’t up to the challenge, I’m sure one of you is brave enough to try. I’ll gladly be among the first to sign up for the beta test. Just don’t send me an e-mail about it.
Well, Jason and his colleagues at Basecamp have given me a reason to smile — and if this costs $100 a year, sign me up.
April 22, 2020, San Francisco.