Deep cover: Ping is an email client masquerading as a mobile chat service
Email, like almost every other consumer technology hoping to survive the shift from desktop computers to the mobile Web, is changing.
The all-encompassing inbox has been replaced by tabs separating social media notifications, promotional materials, and messages people might actually care about. Those messages are now viewed on smartphones via dedicated applications more often than they're accessed via desktop computers or the Web. No-one should ever have to hear "You've got mail!" again.
Perhaps the greatest change to email, as my colleague Hamish McKenzie noted in the announcement of our "shoot the messenger" series, is less about the tech itself and more about renewed interest in instant messaging services.
Ping is looking to combine that interest in mobile messaging apps with email's near-ubiquity to create a new email client set to launch on September 18. Disruptor, meet the yet-to-be disrupted.
Erez Pilosof, one of the company's co-founders, explained the problem he and the rest of the company intend to solve with Ping in a guest post on PandoDaily thusly:
In a world where almost everything is “smart” – almost obnoxiously so – email seems to have pulled the short end of the stick and is void of any form of intelligence. Marrying intelligent filtering with people-centric re-organization will unleash email so it can once again do what it does best: Let us communicate. And this time, it will be from swift, playful mobile messaging interface with the bells and whistles we can’t do without.Ping attempts to solve those problems by creating an email client masquerading as a mobile messaging service. The app discourages users from beginning their messages with antiquated salutations and sign-offs, allows them to easily share pictures or files, and boasts video chat features, too.
Users are technically emailing other users (and non-users) when they use the app, but the app doesn't feature the same subject-and-message interface common to most email clients. Ping co-founder and lead investor Guy Gamzu says that this is intentional, and that email will have to evolve if it's going to become something people enjoy using instead of something everyone tolerates simply because it's been around for so long.
Ping's solution isn't perfect (The Verge has a full review of the app, if you'd like to check that out) but it's an interesting way of resolving two basic truths:
1. Email isn't going away, and;
2. Many people wish that it would.
Put another way: Ping wants its users to have their email accounts and escape the most frustrating aspects of email -- the unnecessary formality, the folders and tags, the constant notifications -- too.