Less is more, as one of the great design principles dictates. It’s a lesson that Twitter picked up when it launched its (initially) simple service, and now it seems to be guiding Moped, a startup that’s effectively taking one of Twitter’s secondary features, stripping it down and building it into a new product.
Direct messaging is the feature, and Moped reckons it can do it better. And it’s not just self-confidence either – as well as launching with web and iPhone apps on Wednesday, Moped has also revealed a $1 million seed round with Earlybird, Betaworks, Lerer Ventures and SV Angel taking part.
“Twitter’s DM is just a ‘feature’ of Twitter,” Moped founder Schuyler Deerman told me. “It lacks lots that the public stream supports, such as being able to address multiple people, location, photos, et cetera. Moped is as easy to use as Twitter, but it’s totally private: you only see the messages you create and are @-mentioned in.”
Yep, ats and hashes – it’s clear whose established language Moped speaks.
Twitter aside, a service like Moped’s is going to find itself up against rivals ranging from universal technologies such as SMS, IRC and email to instant messaging platforms and popular apps like WhatsApp and iMessage.
I couldn’t resist the temptation to have Deerman explain what Moped has to offer against each rival, especially as I’ll admit I was having trouble getting past the it’s-just-DMing-isn’t-it stage.
So, Twitter direct messaging?
“Twitter requires you to be followed by the person you’re DMing – I message with lots of people on a daily basis that I don’t necessarily follow on Twitter.”
iMessage? Well, Apple-only (s AAPL) of course.
“With Moped I have access to messages on desktop and mobile devices, which is not the case with WhatsApp. You can’t even sign in to WhatsApp without a phone number.”
Meanwhile, Moped has a Chrome extension that gives desktop users a quick and easy way to send links to contacts very easily. The iPhone app offers what looks like a straightforward experience, and both versions have Dropbox integration for sharing files between users.
It’s useful to note that investors Betaworks and SV Angel just this month threw cash at another Twitter rival, CheckThis. That’s a microblogging platform, whereas Moped is a messaging platform — but it’s clear that the hunt is on for the next contender that could give Twitter a hard time.
Is Moped that contender? Tough to say right now: adoption is the thing, and being truly cross-platform is crucial. Luckily, Deerman said an Android client is in the works.
He also suggested Moped messages will soon become “richer” as well. Seeing as the service seems to be about stripping down and rebuilding a single feature from an established rival, it will be interesting to see whether this richness comes at the expense of the light weight that makes Moped intriguing.
So, do people really need a cut-down Yammer slash email replacement, on top of Twitter’s secure channel? Time will tell, but Moped might just have enough differentiation to pull it off.