Jason Fried wants you to get a new email address, even after all these years, and pay him US$99 a year to do so. “Everybody really should change their email every 15 years or so,” he says. “Your current email address has been bought and sold and traded, and it’s full of junk. A fresh start is a great thing.” Fried is the founder of Hey, an email service that debuted in mid-June and has picked up 200,000 downloads from people ready to add a hey.com to the end of their email. On the face of it, “this seemed like the stupidest thing I’ve ever done”, says Fried, who is also the founder of Basecamp, a Slack-like communication tool for businesses. “I’m entering a mature market with tons of free options,” he says. “It’s kind of crazy to ask people to pay for something when there are so many free alternatives.” His pitch is that there is no such thing as free. The email services provided by Google , Apple , Verizon (AOL and Yahoo) and Microsoft all come with strings attached, most notably having your emails scanned for information that can be used in personalised ads (Google, Verizon) or being bare bones (Apple and Microsoft). Taking a regular email holiday can make you smarter Fried says he and his team spent two years rethinking how email should work and came out with a program that offers such features as the ability to screen senders before they are allowed to write to you; tools to reply later and find the emails that need attention; a separate folder for attachments, so you can find photos and PDFs at a glance; and privacy. “Many companies track which emails you open, how often you open them and even where you were when you opened them,” Hey says on its website. “It’s a massive invasion of your privacy. Hey blocks these trackers and tells you who’s spying on you.” Fried goes even further: all four of the big tech firms “let you be tracked by anyone who sends you an email”. “The sender knows your IP address, the computer you have, the phone you have, how much time you spent looking at the email. We block spy-tracking pixels,” he says. “I don’t want to open an email and have my behaviour sent to anyone in the world. It’s none of their business. We built software to prevent it.” There are drawbacks. You have to be willing to, as Fried says, be ready for “a fresh start” in your email approach. You can forward your Gmail and AOL mail to the Hey service, but when you reply, it will be from your Hey.com address. You can’t import your backlog of emails. Custom domains are not available, and there is no calendar to sync with your Hey emails. Fried runs a small business that’s dependent upon Apple and Google for distribution, yet he isn’t shy about calling out the gatekeepers. Hey launched a week before Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June, an event where Apple wants the world to believe that Apple and developers, the folks who make apps for iPhones, iPads and Macs, are one big happy family. Fried publicly blasted the California-based company after the Hey app was accepted, then rejected, for inclusion in the App Store. His co-founder, David Heinemeier Hansson, went even further, calling Apple executives “gangsters” on Twitter. The problem came down to economics. Apple charges a 30 per cent commission on all sales in the App Store, but there are exceptions, such as Netflix and Salesforce. If people signed up for Hey on the App Store, they become an Apple customer, not a Hey customer, and Fried didn’t think that was right. “I spent 20 years building a business, to now hand my customers over to Apple. No thank you,” he says. Apple’s stated reason for initially rejecting the app was that consumers who downloaded it couldn’t do anything with it unless they became a customer. “You download the app, and it doesn’t work, that’s not what we want on the store,” Apple senior vice-president Philip Schiller told TechCrunch. Except that that’s how it works with Netflix, Disney+ and other software companies that require a subscription before moving forward. Schiller offered a compromise: a free, working trial edition of Hey. Fried complied, but buyer beware: it’s a watered-down version that gives people a pretty much unusable address – like firstname.lastname@example.org . He wants you to sign up at Hey.com, where you can use your name, or some variation of it, as your address. As Fried said on a company blog: “Think of it like a temporary SIM card you buy when travelling. Or for when you don’t want to give out your real email address, like a short term ‘for sale’ listing, like Craigslist does it.” Email scams con nearly HK$760 million out of more than 400 firms For going public, Fried heard plenty from fellow developers. “Apple’s been strong-arming people for years, everyone’s afraid to speak out,” Fried says. “Someone needs to stand up, because if you don’t, you get 16 years of stagnation.” He refers to the introduction of Gmail as the last email innovation. “That’s what you get when there’s no competition.” Of the 200,000 who signed up for the two-week free trial, Fried says, “tens of thousands” of people have committed to the US$99 yearly plan.