What we talk about when we talk about Peach

I’m loving Peach. It’s goofy and fun! But I think it’s already misunderstood.

People are comparing it to a lot of other social apps, because we have so many to compare it to. I’ve seen it compared to Slack, Ello, Twitter, or Tumblr. Path, that fussy private Facebook, was my first choice for comparison. Both are somewhat private audiences, both have a lot of attention paid to design, both have some special ways to post things (like when you wake up, or how much you walked today). But despite two genuine attempts, I never felt comfortable with Path. Peach, though, feels good like a friendly couch should. Why?

Lemme talk about my two favourite social apps, both long dead.

Gowalla was a location based social networking app, like Foursquare. You went somewhere and checked in to say you were there. But it didn’t have mayors, it had items that you picked up from one place and dropped off at another. It felt like you were part of a chain of people going around, exploring with one another.

Rando was a photo sharing app, like Instagram. You took a photo and it was sent to one other person. Then you got a photo in return. You could see the location of who got your photo, and the location of who took the photo you received, but that was about it. No profiles, no galleries, no filters, just one photo at a time (and remarkably, no NSFW stuff). It was one-on-one with a stranger. Just a quiet little view of people’s lives, sharing a moment with someone in a Moscow suburb.

Gowalla closed in 2012. Rando was shut off almost 2 years ago. Instead, we still have the perpetual high school reunion of Facebook and the unending harassment shitbath of Twitter. And Path, it’s still online too. But I’m not about to go back to Path, because Path is too formal.

That’s the difference between Peach and Path: formality. Facebook is formal now, too; it was casual once but as soon as your boss got on it, it became formal. You had to watch what you posted. Twitter used to be casual. It remained so for a lot longer than Facebook. But now that any tweet could be used as fuel for a harassment campaign, people have to pick their words carefully. Maybe it’s not really formal, but it’s really not casual.

Slack is casual, too. I think that’s why people are comparing Peach to Slack so much. HipChat is definitely formal, with the business blue colour and dry tone. You can’t edit a typo in HipChat. Get it right the first time, it says, or look like a doofus in front of your coworkers. Not casual at all.

Brian Feldman said that Peach’s tool for posting rich updates (such as GIFs, shouts, or steps walked) is like Slack’s slash commands. Yes, sort of, but this is where Peach out-Slacks Slack. When you use the /giphy command in Slack, you don’t know what GIF will be shown. Have you had the experience of a totally boring GIF pop up when you invoke the Giphy genie? It’s not fun. But in Peach, you pick the GIF before it’s actually posted. The slash command of a poorly tuned bot is a What I Guess Is What You Get interface, while Peach’s search-and-select is What You Mean Is What You Get.

Will Peach fail? Sure. All things die. Rando died, Gowalla died, someday Facebook and Twitter and everything else on the internet now will die. Good or bad, parties don’t last forever. As soon as next week, they could put in some monetization scheme that squeezes the juice right out of Peach.

But I’ve got hope. I think the team is more thoughtful than that. Certainly they’ve been thoughtful when it comes to design. Path was overly fussy and tight, Peach is softer. It gives more room to breathe. There are so many delightful little touches. The looping photos, the little dashes underneath hearts to separate posts rather than a full line, the webring-like way to move through friend’s updates. I think the people making Peach actually care.

This weekend, I was walking through the ink-dark park to the gym. I peached a picture of the baseball field, bright lights pouring out on the sand. Later on my way back, I saw somebody had liked it. And I did something I hadn’t done since I was using Rando: I decided to go take a picture of the lake in the park, to share it with them. I wouldn’t have done this for Instagram or Twitter.

Sadly, my battery died before I could take a picture of the lake. But I was still there at the little beach, surprised to find out the lake was frozen. I tossed some pebbles onto the ice to hear it twang and thought about how I was having a good day. Rather than worrying about how I was performing, I was exploring. I was sharing. I was having some fun with the internet. God knows how long it’s been since we’ve all done that.

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