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Why Peach won't change the world of social networks

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Enter the emoji-turned-social network Peach founded by Vine creator Dom Hofman, and you'll find a world filled with nerds, impostors, and both.

Tech journalists discovered Peach on Friday, with TechCrunch’s Drew Olanoff and BuzzFeed’s Katie Notopoulos writing posts on shortly after it debuted online. That immediately set off a gold rush for rare handles and high-value names. Forever jealous of the Twitter early adopters with three-letter names, my first attempt at securing a peach name was "Mat.” The handle, held by Wired alumni and BuzzFeed San Francisco editor Mat Honan, was already claimed.

Instead, I settled on "DickC," the handle of Twitter cofounder and former CEO Dick Costello. The thrill of wearing a Silicon Valley CEO-mask on the app wore thin, and within the hour I'd adopted a different tag. Next was the task of figuring out what Peach actually *does*.

Here is a short list:

  • Peach is the Ello of 2016, in that it's clean interface and flash-in-the-pan thrill make it novel, but no one expects it to succeed in a space dominated by so many established players.
  • Peach is a Facebook wall, the way it used to be before Timeline, and with the important caveat that other people can only comment on other's posts, not their own posts
  • Peach is Slack, with magic words and image-friendly display, but without the separate channels and private messages that make Slack a good office tool
  • Peach is post-Twitter, or at least a vision of what a post-Twitter service might look like
  • Peach is not the Uber of anything

Like all properties in a gold rush, the depth and value of the seam is as yet unknown. People have tapped familiar veins, like the bottom-rung joke rehashing accounts that seem to populate every corner of the social web.

Perhaps the first true stars of Peach are ACE Hardware and AT&T. The former, in the style of off-brand parodies on Twitter, posts (peaches?) content vaguely related to hardware supplies, like a bot that learned about hammers once and is trying to repeat that knowledge in new and exciting ways.

Like all properties in a gold rush, the depth and value of the seam is as yet unknown. 

For a couple days, the account @AT&T on Peach appeared to be a disgruntled employee named Evan, using the display name “EvanG fuck AT&T.” The account posted mostly anger at the company and profanity, including the infamous NSFW shock image Goatse.  

Perhaps that's an inevitable constant of the Internet. As of Sunday afternoon, in what appears to be a further continuation of the stunt, the account changed its display name back to AT&T and posted an apology for “any lewd and inappropriate content that may have been shared on this page yesterday.” In a later post, @AT&T on Peach revealed themselves to be @_MarkThompson on Twitter.

So far, what's most unique about Peach is the way it feels disconnected from the rest of the web. Every person has their own wall on Peach (Peach Garden?), and those are viewed individually. There is no central stream, and there's no URL available for posts. Click "share" on a Peach post and the options are as a text or an email. Like Instagram, screenshots are the only vessel for reblogging other's posts. Anything posted on Peach lives on Peach *only*. As David Carroll, associate professor of Design at Parsons at The New School, tweeted:

Missing in action from the launch are some core features, like reblogging and sharing on other platforms, that one would expect as standard in 2016. Privacy settings are minimal. Posts are by default visible to friends of friends, and can be set to friends only. Private posts aren't yet possible, and private messaging doesn't exist on the service yet.

Missing in action from the launch are some core features, like reblogging and sharing on other platforms, that one would expect as standard in 2016.  

Peach won't replace Facebook, without the accompanying event-planning, messaging, and profile tools that make Facebook as much a destination site as it is a part of the modern web’s infrastructure. Peach’s photo features are fun, but nothing like the instant nostalgia of Instagram. It can tell stories in long-portraits or block text on images, but lacks the liveliness and ephemerality of Snapchat.

If there is an service Peach appears built to dethrone, it is Twitter. No character limits, lively, engaging feeds, and threaded replies all offer a playful alternative to the churning news Goliath that is the little blue bird of timeliness. Slack's magic words are the most innovative tool, pulling in far more than just text and images, and I expect more sites will replicate them as time goes on.

Yet in order to outdo Twitter, Peach cannot remain a series of distinct feeds, tied to individual users. A way to publish posts from the user's wall to a central timeline would do wonders, letting content develop in tide pools before braving the oceanic depths of fast-flowing public newsfeeds.

There is promise that Peach can grow into more than a little weekend distraction for the technorati. Until then, let it be a weedy garden full of growing pains, a modest Wild West of satirical accounts and ready-made predictions of its own demise.

Kelsey D. Atherton is a Washington-DC based technology journalist. His work appears regularly in Popular Science, and has appeared in Popular Mechanics and War Is Boring. He is on Twitter at @AthertonKD and on Peach at @KDA

Image via Yuhei Kuratomi / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


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