It will happen on a nearly daily basis. “Have you heard of this new app/website?” Often followed by a response that is as equally predictable:

  • “Yes, we must have read the same tweets on the train this morning. That sounds …”
  • “No, that sounds cool. How did they spell that? Just removed all the vowels? Gotcha.”

Or more often than not, we default to a politely masked:

  • “No, I’ll take a look later”, knowing we are pretty unlikely to do so.

Those responses aren’t a slight at the person asking the question, but such is the volume of ‘next big things’ that are constantly emerging, the odds of missing out on something truly groundbreaking are pretty slim.The latest next big thing to make the headlines is Peach, and for reasons I am a little fuzzy on (you’re welcome), something has stuck with me. Although I can’t work out if I’m going to be left with a sweet, sour or empty taste as a result.

So, what is Peach?

The app is the latest work from Dom Hofmann, co-founder of Vine and, to me, it feels like a mash up of features from apps that already have mainstream appeal. As a user, you can post updates as you would expect of other networks, with the ability to use GIFs natively to express your point of view - a feature that is more readily accessible than is otherwise available.

The mechanism for accessing an individual’s profile is reminiscent of Snapchat in that there isn’t a publicly available profile page that anybody could access. Nor is there a timeline to compete for attention on. Much like Snapchat, you choose to view an individual’s profile/story, rather than it being determined by an algorithm. Instead, you can only see somebody’s updates if you are connected to them — through your phone’s contacts. (Although there is no Mission Impossible-esque destruction of messages within 24 hours.) What this means for users is a platform that can’t be indexed by search engines — although don’t for a second think that means your misjudged update and data are private. More on that later.

Abracadabra

A feature that has grabbed a lot of attention is the secret language of the Magic Words: text shortcuts that you can type to quickly access information and features. Type GIF for example, and you can search for a GIF you may want to post (just like the integration of Giphy with Slack). SONG gives you a stripped back version of Shazam, HERE shares your location (like checking in/Foursquare — does that still exist??) and MOVE accesses the pedometer within your phone and will tell you how far you have walked today (like, well, every fitness app that exists). 

By now, you should get the picture; it does a lot. Why the magic words access? That, I don’t know. The same premise is popular with Slack users, so that works. Making the user trigger the activity keeps the UI clean and there is an element of exclusivity and being in the know that makes something inherently cool. Perhaps. The cynical voice within, however, has me wondering if this exclusivity is a clever way to mask an app that is pretty hollow, and looks to be constructed on collecting as much data about a user as possible.

Here it comes...

Now, don’t get me wrong, without data my role as a digital strategist would be defunct. We are able to infinitely improve and enhance user experiences using data. It’s helping businesses and users alike be more targeted and efficient in their online activities.

I’m just still struggling to believe that this app offers a better solution than other platforms that are already out there. Instead, it feels like a thinly veiled vehicle for an organisation to gather as much information about its audience as possible. Sure, at the heart of every social network is the value of such information. Enforced ‘Do Not Track’ is a battle many are fighting (Twitter excluded), but at least the others offer a unique/cool/interesting/entertaining experience in return.

Making profiles connect via address book contacts? Peach now has access to your entire phone book, even if your contact doesn’t have or want a profile. Sorry Mum. Does combining a beta version of Shazam with prompts to answer seemingly trivial questions such as “When life gives you lemons …” make for the best user experience? Probably not, but Peach now knows your musical tastes, state of mind and emotional balance. Oh, and how far you’ve walked today, the battery remaining on your phone, and that you have an inexplicable interest in GIFs of hamsters. Even without an indexed URL linked to a profile, this information isn’t private. It’s just narrowed the conversation to be between yourself, your contacts and James (or Dom) with his giant Peach. I’ll spare the economics lesson behind limiting access and supply. It all just feels a bit hollow.

Thoughts

I’ve surprised myself slightly in writing this; I honestly started off thinking I would give a balanced argument — the kind that won’t come to bite me when Peach becomes the new social monolith. And, granted, I am experimenting with the platform using fewer connections than I’m accustomed to with other networks. But, at the minute, I’m not convinced, and I don’t think it will be long before the next big thing comes to the fore. I may be wrong. Meerkat made the headlines for all the right reasons a year ago, only to be superseded by Periscope and the social muscle of Twitter. Even still, they were somewhat of a game changer.


Who knows? Maybe the reverse, a bastardised hybrid of what already exists, will be a hit. We shall have to wait and see.

At least they didn’t call it PCH.

Digital Experience Strategist

As a Digital Experience Strategist at The Economist, Ryan is responsible for identifying opportunities for use of digital innovation. Ryan has a wealth of experience in digital marketing, content strategy, UX, SEM and social media strategy and focuses on creating optimised user experiences that drive engagement and inspire users to take action. If digital experience is his first love, then sport is his second. Follow him on Twitter and read his latest comments and observations on both.