Pip.io out of beta; “Better than Facebook – Better than Twitter”

If you want to get noticed by the media when you send out a press release, you should have a strong title. 

The company with the boldest statement and strongest title in a press release in 2010 is already known, if you ask me.

The prize goes to Pip.io, a service that says hello to the world today (in fact, it’s not in beta anymore, officialy since today, in reality since yesterday) with a press release, titled “Better than Facebook – Better than Twitter – Introducing Pip.io”.

You have to have a lot of nerve to claim this, know how to get the buzz or be very sure of your service (or a combination of these). At least, that’s what I thought at first.

First of all: if you’re not one of the 10,000 people that used the app in beta (including me) let me tell you what Pip.io is. I quote from the press release (and I will quote it several times for once): “Pip.io is a new revolutionary way to communicate and share with others on the web. Based on the attempts to create a digital representation of real-world privacy spectrums, Pip.io allows users to communicate how they want with who they want in real-time”.

And then about the bold statement in the title: “As good as Facebook and Twitter are, they don’t allow users to selectively communicate. Imagine, for instance, that a user’s telephone conversations were accessible to everyone in that user’s phone book? Enter Pip.io, the world’s first social operating system that helps people communicate the way they want”. 

OK, a social operating system. Of course, since I didn’t test it in beta, I had to check this out so I created myself an account. 

Are you custom available or just plain available?

Pipio: the left part of the browser First of all, and simply said, the platform enables you to create a profile and, just like you do in instant messaging, set your status in the left hand part of your browser. In the Pip.io language: ‘available’, ‘away’ and ‘invisible’. If you are ‘available’ or ‘away’ you can be simply ‘available’ or ‘away’ or ‘custom available’ or ‘away’. Confused? Well, with the ‘custom’ options you can comment on your status. 

Pip.io wants to combine and offer the privacy and private conversations as you know them from IM with the public conversations that are going on on Twitter, Facebook and the likes. But you can also create private conversations or group conversations using tools you would normally use more for public conversations. Again confused?

Well, it’s kind of a dashboard, chat client etc. with a strong focus on communication, privacy and groups. What the folks at Pip.io describe as a spectrum that “ranges from very private (think one-on-one IM chats) to what they refer to as “global voyeurism” (like what we see on Facebook and Twitter)”.

In the main part of the web-based app you can install various applications like a full-featured Twitter client, a full-featured Facebook client and a YouTube client. Unfortunately, when I tried to test the ‘social OS’, these three said ‘coming soon’. 

One-on-one communication, group communication and global voyeurism

By now you get it: of course Pip.io is not a replacement for Twitter, Facebook or whatever you use. However, the people at Pip.io do have a very specific view on Twitter and Facebook, I quote: “Those platforms are extremely good at facilitating conversations at the “global voyeur” end of the privacy spectrum”.

The only application that worked when I tested it was the RSS-based news feeder. However, beta testers tell me that everything worked fine in the beta, maybe it’s because I just signed up or because the service has had bunches of subscribers? No idea.

Now, Pip.io promises a lot. 

When the press release talks about the spectrum that ranges from very private to global voyeurism, the folks at Pip.io say, and I quote “What about all those scopes in between? They’re exactly what we all miss when we hold back on Facebook or Twitter because we’re worried about who will read our updates. Pip.io helps people define their audience”.

But that’s not all because thus far I have talked mainly about the social part in the ‘social OS’. Next comes the operating system part. Basically, it’s bringing third-party applications into what Pip.io calls its ecosystem. 

Isn’t that what you can do with FriendFeed, to name just one?

Forget aggregation: think groups, privacy scopes and rooms

Yes. But Pip.io has another approach: it doesn’t want to aggregate and push and pull third-party apps data.

What then? Let me quote again: “Pip.io aims for full functionality—and in most cases, enhancement—of third-party applications. The Netflix application, for example, has full functionality: logging in with a Netflix account will allow a user to use the live-streaming functionality right in the OS. Netflix subscribers could potentially enjoy such extended functionality as group synchronous viewing: if someone paused a video, it would pause for everyone in the group; if someone jumped to a certain point in a clip, it would do the same for everyone else, in real-time”.

So it’s all about what Pip.io calls ‘privacy scopes’ “that form the basis of the environments in Pip.io’s native eco-system that facilitate conversation”.

Do you still follow? Because there’s more. Pip.io has an area called “Rooms.” Basically it’s “an environment where users can invite people to join and accept invitations from others. Netflix, for one, could use the “Rooms” API to facilitate the invitation process for the synchronous group video-viewing feature”. 

I know, I quote a lot today but let me give you this one too: “Pip.io’s mission is to empower every individual voice—but not only voices: also those thoughts that no one ever shares because no platform exists to deliver them. MySpace was all about connecting with strangers who had similar interests. Facebook connected us to people who we knew. Pip.io now helps us organize the people we know so that we can say what we want to who we want”. 

There still is more. As I said, Pip.io is not in beta anymore and the updated, full service comes with different new features such as web-based video chat (there was already a chat client in the beta), the just mentioned rooms and all kinds of enhancements (API, design, etc.)

Again, don’t think Pip.io is new. In fact, the California-based company (and the tool with the same name) were founded in October 2008 and thousands of people signed up for the beta (and thousands more since yesterday).

Back to where Pip.io is now. I guess that, if it delivers what it promises, Pip.io might be a winner. Unfortunately, what I see myself are bugs, ‘coming soons’ and I have no idea where I can create myself a room. Don’t know why.

On the other hand: beta testers are enthusiastic and when writing and testing this, San Francisco, where the company is headquarted was still asleep, so I guess you will see/read/hear more later today (or tomorrow)?

I know that if it does what it promises I want to use it but what if the people I’m connected with don’t?

You know what? I’m still figuring it out. Check it out yourself on http://pip.io/ and please fill me in.

Now, this is one of these posts where you wish you had a demo or video. Well, there is one. Yesterday, Robert Scoble posted a video where Leo Shimizu, CEO of Pip.io, shows him the full version. Check it out below.

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