Since Friday, I've been going around telling friends that "Pownce is the new pink," which is really my way of avoiding the burden of explaining Digg founder Kevin Rose's new startup toy. But since I've been mocked by my staff at and misheard by my friends, I might as well explain myself — and Pownce, while I'm at it. Here's what Pownce is — and isn't:
- Pownce is insanely hot. Among the tight-knit set of Web cognoscenti, Kevin Rose's celebrity made Pownce an instant hit and Pownce invitations a scarce commodity. (Like any other scarce commodity, they ended up for sale on eBay.) This was the original impetus for my observation that "Pownce is the new pink": Like Paris Hilton, it's famous for being famous, long before anyone seriously started using it.
- Pownce is not the new Twitter. Twitter is for sending messages. Pownce is more for sending URLs, files, and invitations — things you want to share, not things you want to "share."
- Pownce is a file-sharing service at its core. You've heard of file sharing as a way to get free music, no doubt, and probably heard the convenient myth that these services are meant for sharing files with your friends. (Not that that should matter. Copyright-law novices, take note: Just because you're sharing files with your friends doesn't make republishing a copyrighted work, which is what you're doing when you upload it, any less illegal.) On Pownce, when you're sharing a file with your friends, you're really just sharing it with your friends.
- Pownce is the record industry's worst nightmare. Precisely because the sharing of files is so private and so limited, it's almost impossible to police. Unless the RIAA plans to enlist college students to sign up on Pownce and rat out their new "friends," it's hard to see how record labels will even figure out which of their copyrights are being violated — a necessary step before they can file a copyright complaint.
- Pownce isn't that interesting. It's pretty, well-designed, and functional. But is it really that hard to do any of the things you can do on Pownce?
- Pownce was not created for the reasons its founders claim. I don't buy Pownce's cover story that it was "brought to you by a bunch of geeks who were frustrated trying to send stuff from one cube to another." Pownce cofounder Leah Culver has a more convincing version: That Pownce is an excuse to program a website using some new technologies.
To those faux creation myths, I'll add mine: Pownce is an exercise in both computer programming and social engineering, the ultimate cynical tech-powered media hack, expertly performed on the denizens of the very small world we live in. Congratulations, Rose, Culver, and the rest: You've figured out how to write code to our API. Pownce isn't the new pink — it's the new link.