Josh Ong is the US Editor at The Next Web. He previously worked as TNW's China Editor and LA Reporter. Follow him on Twitter or email him a Josh Ong is the US Editor at The Next Web. He previously worked as TNW's China Editor and LA Reporter. Follow him on Twitter or email him at [email protected].
Web-based email service Bubbles has picked up $100,000 from angel investors, including Arvind Jha, a former director of engineering at Adobe, for its mission to solve the email problem with handwritten notes.
Though still in beta, Bubbles has attracted 40,000 users. The service provides a Web view of a virtual piece of paper that users can doodle on or add images to and then send as a PDF email attachment. The angel funding will be used to continue development and marketing of the product.
Founder Arvind Nigam says part of his inspiration to build Bubbles was Y Combinator founder Paul Graham’s Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas, which specifically mentions replacing email with a new protocol.
While I doubt anyone is going to want to go back from typing to scribbling with a mouse, there may be room for hand-drawn emails on tablets and touchscreen computers. For instance, I’ve really enjoyed the drawing functionality on Cubie Messenger and wouldn’t mind having that available for the occasional email.
Bubbles’ implementation needs work, though. At present, the message template that it uses looks too much like spam or a phishing attempt. I sent a nice little doodle to a TNW colleague, but he never opened it because it looked suspicious.
Surprisingly, there’s also no mobile support yet. I would have expected a startup like this to go mobile first, but navigating to the Bubbles website on a smartphone just says “Mobile Support Unavailable.” That’s a glaring omission in my book, and one that would hinder me from actually using the service.
The iPad version worked well, but drawing still proves too slow for everyday use. I send dozens of emails a day and receive hundreds, so there’s no way that I can sift through them all as crudely-drawn attachments. Sure, I wouldn’t mind receiving a drawing or two from a niece or nephew, but that’s about it.
Nigam says the Bubbles has set out to “bring the power of handwritten letters and real-time web together.” I can think of a few people who would want those combined, but not enough for a revolution.
Bubbles also offers a premium, enterprise-focused version of its service with bonuses like official letterhead and documents. But both the name and the interface aren’t very business friendly. Business emails are still relatively formal, so drawing feels like a better fit for a more casual environment like mobile messaging.
Users that send messages to other Bubbles users do gain some additional features. The service supports @mentions for usernames and letters can be marked up and added to from within Bubbles.
While I didn’t find a use for Bubbles in my own life during the short time I spent with it, the startup’s new funding should help it develop further. So many of us are desperate for an email solution, but I’m not convinced that Bubbles is yet it.
Related: We’re finally getting closer to solving the email problem
Image credit: Image Source
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