Basecamp launches Hey, a hosted email service for neat freaks

Project management software maker Basecamp has launched a feature-packed hosted email service, called Hey — which they tout as taking aim at the traditional chaos and clutter of the email inbox.

Hey includes a built in screener that asks users to confirm whether or not they want to receive email from a new address. Inbound emails a Hey user has consented to are then triaged into different trays — with a central “imbox” (“im” standing for important) containing only the comms the user specifies as important to them; while newsletters are intended to live a News Feed style tray, called The Feed, (where they’re automatically displayed partially opened for easy casual reading); and email receipts are stacked in a for-reference ‘Paper Trail’ inbox view. 

Other notable features include baked in tracking pixel blocking (with Hey acting like a VPN and sharing its own IP address with trackers, rather than email senders learning yours when you open a mail with embedded trackers); a handy looking attachment library that lets you view all attachments you’ve ever received in one searchable place; and a ‘Reply Later’ feature that lets you tag emails you want to follow up on, teeing them up in a stack — clicking a ‘Focus & Reply’ button then displays all stacked emails in a single page so you can take a one-hit run at replying to everything you teed up earlier.

The software is the literal opposite of an MVP — with all sorts of organizational workflow style hacks baked in at launch, such as the ability to merge different email threads; rename email subjects; set up notifications for individual contacts; take clippings from within emails to save to a reference library; and attach your own sticky notes to keep further tabs on emails you may want to revisit or remember.

Some other salient points: Hey is not free (they’re offering a free 14 day trial but pricing thereafter is a flat $99 per year, billed in one go, for 100GB storage; NB: certain vanity email addresses may cost you more); Hey is not end-to-end encrypted (they make an up front promise that they’re not data mining your inbox but they do hold the keys to access your info); Hey does not support IMAP or POP, so Basecamp is giving the middle finger to standard email protocols — instead you’re tethered to using only Hey’s apps forever (hence they have apps for web, Mac, Windows, Linux, iPhone, iPad, and Android right now); nor can you import email from another webmail service.

Asked by a Twitter user about the lack of support for IMAP, Basecamp CTO David Heinemeier Hansson confirmed it will never be supported, writing that: “Our changes to email requires the vertical integration we’ve done.”

While custom domains are not available at launch, Heinemeier Hansson noted they are coming “later this year”. Also on the slate for the same timeframe: Hey for Business.

Right now, Basecamp is limiting sign ups to the free trial of Hey via a wait list plus invite system. As of yesterday, it said there were more than 50,000 people on the wait list — warning it might take “a couple of weeks” before they’re ready to accept direct sign-ups.

In the meanwhile, for anyone keen on a closer look at Basecamp’s reorganized spin on email, founder and CEO, Jason Fried, has recorded the below video for a walk through tour of Hey’s features…