Group messaging via email is a mess. If you send an email to multiple people, it’s inevitable they’ll forget to “Reply to All” and then others miss out on the conversation. You end up having forks of the original message, including and un-including recipients at will. Wouldn’t it be great if there was an alternative form of communication, optimised for more than two parties?
Well, there was one: Google Wave. I loved Google Wave, and spent a lot of time experimenting with it as part of the closed developer preview before it launched. It was really fun to play with group collaboration and conversation, and the nature of the format made it extremely intuitive to use. However, Google ended the Wave project last year and, although they’re working on a solution for a self-hosted version, it’s not really used by the public any more.
But don’t think that this means you have no other option for this type of communication. Peers.me is a great alternative that’s not currently waiting for its switch to be flicked off. The group communication tool shares many of the features of Google’s product (even its name!), but is currently maintained and in service, making it a considerable option for the next time you need to send out that group memo.
Waving Goodbye to Email
Peers.me is centred around the waves you create – yes, that’s right: the “wave”. Although this seems too much of a coincidence, it was quite favourable that I could pick up the format quite quickly thanks to my experience with Google’s product. When you signup, you are given a custom *.peers.me URL to access your wave inbox.
A wave is essentially the replacement for an email, in that it is the centre of your group’s conversation. Naturally, you can create a wave for each different topic of discussion and you’re not really limited in that sense. The participants in a wave are determined by the group you have chosen to start the wave in, which is, in turn, decided by your creation of one from the sidebar menu. This has the whole Google+ Circles-style feel to it – especially since each “Wave group” has it’s own division of your address – which is pretty nice.
Waves act just like a regular email; you can write and format text and embed media to be shared with the recipients of the wave. Similar to the system on Twitter, hashtags can be applied to a wave to be easily sorted later on. Of course, unlike Twitter, the results when searching for a hashtag are only limited to the waves you are included in. Unfortunate for the curious, but favourable for the privacy-concious!
A Peers.me Wave
It is really hard to ignore the obvious ties with Google’s products here. The interface does not look too much unlike Google, nor does the overall structure of the service. Then there’s hashtags and the Circle-like groups system, which makes Peers.me seem very familiar. To be clear, however, that is not a complaint. In fact, having a stable service that brings in favourite features of several different services is very promising, and could be great for your personal or business life.
Waving Hello (or Goodbye!)
Of course, this group messaging web app is all about the group aspect. Therefore, you can invite friends to any conversation at any time, much like forwarding an email but maintaining all the original recipients. This is a very helpful feature, as it doesn’t allow a conversation to split up into sub-groups of recipients. Instead, every recipient (new or old) receives every message.
Just as it’s easy to add a new recipient to a wave, it’s incredibly easy to leave one too. If you’ve had enough, all that is required to cease the communication is to hit the unfollow button in your inbox. This is a super useful feature that I wish other social networks offered.
One can add a new recipient through their wave address ([email protected]) or through email.
Pricing and Availability
Peers.me is publicily available for free, as long as you’re able to limit your recipients to the measly number of tens. Loners with the odd contact (or web app reviewers who have nothing better to do than write reviews at 1am on a Saturday morning ) will adapt to the limit of free invites, but socialites have the option to purchase membership for more people.
Peers.me works on a credits system when additional membership is purchased. Users have the option to buy credits for between €0,60 and €1,40 per user per month, depending on the quantity purchased.
Peers.me is free for up to 10 users, and very cheap to add additional ones.
Peers.me is trying to take a slice out of the massive demand for communication services. We certainly love to talk online, and do so privately (through means such as this) or more publicly (on social networks). As developers realise this, the growth in group communication apps has been evident, especially this year. Peers.me seems like a pretty secure choice. It brings the best of public communications style that we’ve gotten used to with social networks, and takes it all as private as email.
Tools such as the easy adding of new recipients and categorizing waves by hashtag are really great to have. And, if you feel like you won’t remember to keep checking yet another inbox, options in your notifications allow you to receive emails when events occur in your waves. It seems replacing your email might not be too difficult after all!