July 7, 2007
Pownce review: Messaging for web 2.0 era
Pownce is the new brainchild of Kevin Rose and a few others. I recently got invited to try it out and I did (The video that you see above was captured using Adobe Captivate). When I first read about Kevin's cryptic definition of Pownce as "IM competitor", I wondered if there's any innovation left in the "beaten to death" concept of IM. After checking it out today, I don't think it is a direct competitor to IMs but I feel there is something that Pownce has got to offer. Inspired by the sharing spirit of web 2.0 (pardon me for the cliche), Pownce promotes a new granularity of messaging - send stuff to a "group of friends".
Traditional IM clients focussed on sending instant messages/files to one contact. Recently popular Twitter focusses on broadcasting status messages to everybody. Pownce focusses on sharing messages/links/files/events to all/subset of your friends (they could be online/offline). You can divide your friends into multiple sets and send appropriate stuff to each set. For example, you can form a set of local friends to send saturday get-together invites and another set of ex-collegemates to discuss about your common interests. Other granularities such as private (messaging one particular friend), public (shoutout to everybody) are supported too (except in the case of file transfer).
Pownce is available in the form of a web application as well as a desktop application (based on the cool-looking Adobe AIR platform). All the stuff you receive from your friends will be shown in this app (with auto-refresh) and you can send stuff too. You can also check your profile in pownce website to see all your stuff (private/public) and anybody can see your public profile which will only contain public messages from you and your friends. For example, here is Kevin Rose's public profile with all sorts of messages from his big list of friends.
Pownce has support for mass distribution like Facebook. When you receive a message/file from somebody, you can forward it to your other friends. It defaults to sending to "friends who haven't seen it" in this case (clever!). Once Pownce grows and has lots of users, I can imagine hot news spreading fast with this feature (the likes of 'Paris hilton phone hacked'). It also supports RSS feeds for following public profiles of your favorites using your feed reader. Another nice feature that will come handy if you want to find something amidst the big pile of messages is the filtering feature - you can filter and see only a particular type of stuff sent by your friends such as messages only, links only etc.
To summarize, Pownce is in a space that is complementary to IMs even though it is not jaw-droppingly innovative. If you are curious enough to try it out, I have several invites to distribute. Just send an email to and I will pass on the invite to you.