With all the kerfuffle over Hey.com – an exciting new email service from the makers of Basecamp, it’s important to remember that if it takes off, Hey.com will be in a similar position to Apple. Groundskeeper of the walled garden.
While the service appears to be a refreshingly original rethink on how email should work (I’ve not signed up myself), it appears to be designed to lock users in. There is no way to use an external email client, and right now there is no support for custom domains (despite being targeted at business users with a $99/year charge – they say its coming).
You’ll also have to continue to pay if you decide to move to a different provider but want to keep your Hey.com address forwarding. I see no reason why the features advertised (great as they are) couldn’t be part of an email client designed by Hey.com – using a combination of cloud services and native clients, Hey could provide a powerful front-end to any open email service such as Outlook.com or Gmail which provide access via IMAP.
Instead it seems they want to lock customers in, which goes against the open, standards based approach that has made email so successful so far. Putting aside the fact Google or Microsoft could easily copy any of these features, and probably will, this is a service I’ll be skipping.
Update: thanks to Shauny for informing me that Hey.com does in fact offer free forwarding for life for customers who pay for a year’s service.