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5 reasons Peach could compete with Facebook

Daniel Roberts
Senior Writer

The social networking app Peach launched last week, and as often happens on the Internet, it enjoyed a sudden viral moment of fame and excitement. Then its moment appeared to end.

Peach cleverly combines elements of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vine, the 6-second looping video app that Twitter acquired in 2012. It was created, the company confirms, by Vine founder Dom Hofmann. (Hofmann declined an interview.) But it is most similar to the communications tool Slack, which took off last year at the offices of publishing and tech companies, helping the private startup achieve a valuation of nearly $3 billion.

Peach users type in "magic words" a la Slack commands in order to source content from various places: type "weather" to post the weather in your area; type "here" to post your current location; type "draw" to doodle right on the screen, and so on. It gives users the capability to post many different media, from a GIF (sourced from the GIF library Giphy) to a looping video (like Vine).

Peach works almost like sending a text message—you simply post the note, photo, video, or link, and your connections see it. And there's an unusual twist: it isn't public. Users have no public profile or URL that they can share on the web. It all happens within the app. That could be a risk if Peach wants to grow its userbase, but it also helps the platform feel more intimate. Still, many of the familiar elements of typical social media platforms are here: you can "like" a post, comment, and "wave" to a friend to nudge them. (Remember the Facebook poke?) Or you can "cake" them, or "boop" them, or six other commands.

It's a lot of fun.

But if you ask some outlets, you don't need to bother figuring out how to use it, because it will soon be dead or is already dead. Tech blog BGR declared as much on Monday, using Peach's slip from No. 85 to No. 129 in the App Store as evidence. "This seems as obvious as the death of Meerkat one month after its debut," the site wrote.

Not so fast. Meerkat, the live-video app that was a breakout mega-hit at last year's South By Southwest, lost steam because Twitter backed a competitor, Periscope, virtually boxing Meerkat out. It was a unique case. And App Store ranking isn't always the best sign of popularity, though it's an easy metric to use.

A better comparison for Peach is to Ello, another upstart social media web site that showed early promise when it launched in August 2014. The platform pledged to steer clear of ads, and was instantly attractive to creative types and artists. It used, like Peach, fun shorthand to post updates. It launched an advertising campaign that specifically called out Facebook. And yes, the buzz around Ello has now all but died.

But Peach may have much more staying power. Here are five arguments why.

1. Brands love it.

Brands from Starbucks to Taco Bell to pop cultute site Boing Boing were quick to jump on Peach. J. Crew is on it. Vice is on board. Merriam-Webster is using it to post its "dictionary word of the day" one day early. As Instagram and Snapchat both try to figure out how to make money through selling ads, having brands hop on Peach early is a good sign that it can eventually make money from them.

Niv Dror runs social media for Product Hunt, a site that features curated apps, gadgets and web sites every day. He says he is seeing more engagement from Peach posts than tweets—and Product Hunt has more than 100,000 followers on Twitter. "It's a blank canvas for whatever you want to make it," Dror tells Yahoo Finance. "And they all embed natively. If you post a photo, it feels like Instagram. If I record a short video with it, it feels just like Vine. When you post a link and it creates a little preview, it feels like Slack. We've grown so fast, I have to assume we're one of the biggest accounts on there. But you can't tell." (Peach does not show a friend or follower count, another feature that sets it apart from Facebook and Twitter.)

2. It isn't Facebook.

Facebook continues to become a self-contained Internet; what was once a place for personal photos and status updates is now a gaming hub, a video library, a commerce marketplace, a messaging service, and so on. As Mark Zuckerberg continues these efforts, some users are getting turned off. There's a lot of clutter in your Facebook feed these days: advertisements, invitations to apps, sponsored content. Many people crave something cleaner and sparser. Peach doesn't show you anything but your list of friends, and you can jump in to see their posts.

3. It takes the best of Twitter, leaves the worst.

Peach feels like what Twitter was when it first launched: an SMS-messaging app only. You would send out a tweet and only those to whom you sent it could see it. But on Twitter these days, your timeline has a lot of content you don't want to see right now, but from accounts you don't want to unfollow. Peach solves that: there is no feed. You must click a friend's name to view their updates, which means you can ignore someone as long as you like. You only see what you choose to view. And it works the opposite way, too: no one can see your posts unless you approve them. (There is a 'friends of friends' tab, but it is curated with suggested accounts; there is no way to view a specific account without requesting to be friends.)

4. It has a sense of humor.

Peach is funny, and even cute, because emojis are cute. Its users tend to approach posts with a sense of humor—and how could they not, when the app has options like "quarantine" a friend (send them the emoji of a smiley with a health mask) and "shout" (create a big flashing neon animation of a word or short exclamation). As Facebook and Twitter have grown, they've both lost that sense of wonder. Peach still has it—though you could attribute that to the sheen of being new.

5. It's remarkably simple.

Ello, the last "it" Facebook challenger before Peach, relied on understanding short codes that were fun to master, but not obvious. Some liked that aspect, but it also meant that it was difficult for the non-tech savvy to use and understand. Peach's "magic words" are obvious and simple—and they're no secret. The app happily displays a list of all them for you, or you can see what pops up when you type a single letter and let it auto-fill commands. Twitter, though it has become integral to media and important for news-gathering, has a barrier to entry for people of a certain age. But anyone who has sent text messages can quickly figure out how to use Peach.

By the way, we are on Peach at @yahoofinance. If you give the app a try, check us out.