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Nurphy Wants to Replace Email with Conversations

The beta launch of Google Wave has once again put the spotlight on the shortcomings of email. Wave tries to be everything for everybody, but others, like the recently launched Nurphy, have opted for a more focused approach. Nurphy, founded by Paul Horsfall and Neil Cauldwell, wants to be a replacement for email conversations with multiple recipients. The result is an interesting mix between email, Twitter, Yammer and IM that is aimed at both business and casual users.

Conversations Instead of Email

To initiate a conversation, you first have to sign up to the service or sign in with your Twitter credentials, which doesn’t take more than a minute. On the website itself, Nurphy looks a bit like a cross between Twitter and an email client. After you have signed up, you can start a conversation with anybody who is on the service already or by email. Recipients who don’t want to sign up for Nurphy can continue to reply to messages by email.

Conversations on Nurphy are shown in a Twitter-like timeline in reverse chronological order. Conversations can be public, private or by invitation only (though still visible to the public). Public threats – like Nurphy’s own customer service site – look a bit like forums and Nurphy recommends that you post links to these public conversations on your social networking profiles so that you can have a ‘real’ conversation with your friends. Without threaded conversations, however, it can be hard keep track of conversations. Instead of using sub-threads like Yammer, Nurphy borrowed Twitter’s @reply structure.

It is clear that Nurphy’s designers paid a lot of attention to detail. If you ever registered for a Gravatar in the past, for example, it will automatically choose this picture as your profile image in Nurphy. The service also offers a nifty mobile website, which looks especially good on the iPhone.

Needs some Fine-Tuning

The service, however, also still needs a bit of fine-tuning. You can’t edit messages once they have been posted – the only option is to delete the whole message. It can also take a few minutes before an emailed message actually appears in a conversation. There are also a few small design flaws that take a user out of the experience. When you add a message, the whole page reloads, for example, even though the system seems perfectly capable of adding incoming messages to the conversation without a reset.

It almost seems like Nurphy is trying to keep things too simple in its current iteration. While we understand that the company is trying to make it as easy as possible for new users to get started, it would be nice if you could set up a private Yammer-like network for your friends or colleagues, for example.

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