Peach: a fad or the next big thing in social media?

Hopefully it doesn't go the way of Ello

Peach is many things. It’s developed by Vine co-founder Dom Hofmann. It’s a social media app. It’s a messaging app. It’s something like a mix between Twitter and Slack. Despite those similarities, it’s also rather unique and everyone is talking about it. So what’s it all about? What does it do? Why is it different from other apps? Let’s take a look.

Assuming you’ve signed up and added friends, the first thing you see in Peach is a wall of status updates from your friends. It’s reminiscent of Twitter, though there is no Direct Messaging equivalent. You can send messages to your friends but everything you post is public. You can view friend’s profiles for more options and everything about the initial experience feels very much like what we’re used to on Twitter, Vine, Instagram etc. The only noticeable difference is the lack of complex menus and tabs. Everything is simple, clean, attractive, and leaves the impression that the app is fairly devoid of advanced functionality. On the contrary, Peach is surprisingly capable but takes a different approach to navigating its many features. This is where it sets itself apart.

In recent years we’ve grown used to navigating complex menus or learning various gesture-based controls. Hidden pull-down menus. Swiping left and right. Pinch and zoom. We’re adding more features to our apps, making them deeper, and finding new ways to get around them. Back in the good old days of command-driven interfaces, you got things done by typing. It truly seems like a different time, comparing OSX and Windows 10 to operating systems like MS-DOS. You would tell the computer to run a task, and it would do it. It might feel archaic to some but it’s really quite efficient. Having a hundred features didn’t require a hundred option menus and distinct screens. It only took one text box to do everything. Peach tries to recreate that simplicity.

Peach provides you with a small box to type in, much like what you see in Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger. If you type “how are you?”, it will post the message like any other app. You can add pictures or looping videos, which is all very familiar. The depth of Peach only becomes apparent when you start typing magic words. Every feature can be accessed by typing a command, which is surprisingly fun and intuitive. If you type “gif” and then a word like “dog”, you can browse through dog GIFs courtesy of GIPHY and share an adorable pooch. If you type “draw”, you are presented with a screen where you can doodle an image to post. You’re always using the same interface to use these very different actions, all activated by typing commands.

Adding GIFs and doodles isn’t too unusual for a messaging app but Peach has many commands that add more depth to your messages. Telling someone what you’re watching on TV? If you type “TV” before the name of the show, the app will post info about the show that your friends can tap to learn more. This works for movies and books too. If you type “song” it will listen like Shazam and post the track. Peach can tap into your phone so that can post the current time, date, weather, how many steps you’ve taken recently, or even your remaining battery level. Typing “dice” rolls a virtual dice, “safari” starts a new browser window to begin a search, and there are many quirky commands that make little sense. Typing “shout” before your message will post it in huge characters for all to see. As silly as some of it is, many commands are genuinely useful. If your friend asks where you are, replying “here” will post your current location. All without leaving the messaging area of the app.

Is it a fad? Will it survive? It’s hard to say. New apps often surge in popularity but can’t survive on hype alone. Its features and unique approach make it cute and fun but your enjoyment will likely depend on how many friends end up using it. A good social media platform is the one with your friends on it, so I’ve seen many promising sites and apps vanish into obscurity despite great features. The initial reaction is spectacular but it doesn’t guarantee lasting success. If people find their friends aren’t signing up quick enough, they’ll likely give up on it. I think it’s cute so would like to see my friends pick it up, but I have a feeling it won’t wrestle control from Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp.

Peach is available for iOS and free in the App Store.

Main image © iStock/BruceBlock