Working Tools 37. HEY

Heard of Basecamp? It’s a collaboration tool for remote teams.

Well, the guys behind it have been working on re-imagining e-mail. The aim is to put the user in charge. Privacy-driven, workflow-oriented, with some additional clever elements. It’s called HEY. If you have a half hour, go check out this video by the CEO.

I was seduced. Back in February, the company advised interested parties that they were opening a list for early access in June. I missed that, but eventually caught up and got my request sent in May. I believe, at launch (June 15th) there were 40 to 50 thousand people awaiting their invite.

Basecamp have been dripping out the invitations. The idea is that you use your code to sign up online and get your new e-mail address, and then download the relevant apps for your platform and get going. You have 14 days to try the service. If happy, you can sign up, for £99 per year.

If the service works, and does what it says it does, I will happily pay £99 per annum. That’s not to say that the service is perfect, or without missing features, but the pros outweigh the cons, – for me.

I kept checking my inbox for my code. I’d like to secure my favoured user name. FOMO anyone?

Then, Twitter blew up. Apple is threatening to pull the app – because the subscription element is outside the App Store. Ie: Apple doesn’t get a cut. That’s a no-no.

Unless it’s not a no-no.

There are plenty of examples of apps that already do this with no trouble – one of them being Basecamp. Other e-mail services do it too, Fastmail, Protonmail and Gmail, for example. I’m no expert on this sort of thing – go read John Gruber’s take, here.

I’m not a developer, nor an Apple shareholder. I’m not even a European regulator. (Look out Apple.) I’m a consumer.

I understand the debate – should Apple get a slice of everything that touches their platform or should other parties be allowed to profit from their own innovation atop IOS? There are good arguments on both sides, and I look forward to learning.

However – from a consumer point of view, I’m just annoyed.

Apple is the biggest company in the world. How in God’s name did they create a system that is inconsistent, opaque and so difficult to navigate? They approved the application and then changed their mind? OK on Friday, no good on Monday? Really? That’s the Quality system?

I feel for Basecamp, I’m sure this is not what they want to see. Some are suggesting this is a superbly engineered PR stunt. I imagine the same people think the Earth is flat and Covid-19 a hoax. Without IOS, Hey is crippled, headlines or no headlines.

The promise of the service is fantastic, the marketing clever, and the hype exciting. Bravo Basecamp – a rising tide lifts everyone.

Now, the tide’s out. Apple looks like a greedy monopolistic behemoth, stifling innovation.

Smart Apple would acquire Basecamp. Ruthless Apple would load the development team for its own mail applications, sherlock and supersede Hey.

Rotten Apple, in full view of its customer base, crushes an exciting initiative on the basis that, it hasn’t been cut in on the action.

I have no problem with Apple making money – but it takes a special kind of stupid to make yourself look this bad.

Legal counsel are telling Tim Cook that they can beat the anti-trust investigations in the US and the EU. Maybe they can. Regulators will never bring Apple down.

Greed and complacency might though.

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