Is Superhuman’s Email App Really Worth $30 A Month? Maybe.

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Kevin Roose, tech reporter for the NY Times, gets to skip to the front of the waiting list for the much ballyhooed Superhuman super-duper email client, which tech luminaries are swooning over. Roose was skeptical, but then, kind of fell in love:

I am a notoriously bad emailer. My usual Inbox Zero strategy is letting a bunch of important emails pile up in my inbox for months, before going on a guilt-driven purge in which every message I send begins with “Sorry for the delay.”

But with Superhuman, I bushwhacked through my unread emails in less than an hour, eventually reaching a kind of dissociative flow state. Invitation to a blockchain-themed happy hour? Hit ⌘-; to insert a “snippet,” a canned reply politely declining. Newsletter from a hotel I stayed at once in 2014? Hit ⌘-U to unsubscribe. It made checking my email feel less like doing work and more like speed-running a video game in which the object is to annoy as few people as possible.

It’s strange, on one level, to think about my email at all. For years, email felt like a remnant of an earlier technological era that was fading into obsolescence. Workplace chat apps like Slack sold themselves to large corporations as “email killers,” and messaging apps replaced email as many people’s primary inboxes.

Yet email lives. In fact, it’s thriving. Nearly 300 billion emails are sent and received every day, according to Radicati, a research firm that studies messaging trends. Even if half of those are spam, that’s an enormous amount of communication taking place on a decades-old system.

Email is the cockroach of communications. It will take 500 million years for email to go extinct. Telegrams and fax have fallen out of use, but the long-derided email — ‘where knowledge goes to die’ — is still with us, and for a simple reason: email systems are able to intercommunicate because email is based on universally accepted standards. I don’t have to worry what email service you are using when I send you an invoice. On the other hand, I dare you to try to chat with a friend using Teams while you are typing in Slack.

Everyone knows how email works, and everyone (almost) has an email address.

I will have to beg a try from Rahul Vohra, the CEO and founder, and who founded Rapportive, the Gmail plug-in that displayed information about email senders. He sold that off to LinkedIn, and Superhuman might be scooped up by one of the acquisitive internet giants, too.

$30 per month is small change for tech execs, but might be a bit much for the average email user, and I doubt that corporations want to up their spend in that regard, either.

But I am tempted by the keyboard shortcuts, I admit. I am drawn, as always, to the command line.

Written by

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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