HEY Email & my 10 year email journey from Yahoo! to HEY

HEY.com is a clean redefinition of how an email platform can improve your workflow and make email efficient. But can it replace Outlook, Gmail or ProtonMail?

In the last couple of years, many new premium email services have come to the market like ProtonMail from CERN researchers, Germany based Tutanota, and now Hey.com from Basecamp. Until now, though, it appears that most of these platforms are finding a specific niche of the user base. Although unlike ProtonMail and similar offerings, Hey seems to be targeting more extensive range of users and do not carry a lot of technical details on their website.

Although I began using email more than ten years back, the market felt saturated, and it was already quite late for getting a good username. With the advent of a new promising email platform, I thought I’d look back on my journey on the email until now and see why I may or may not want to use it.

Yahoo!

I was born the in the same year as Yahoo! was launched. When I created my first email ID on Yahoo! it was already 15 years older platform and I added a dot some numbers to get an ID. It used to have themes for the emails (I don’t remember the accurate appellation for the feature) using which the user could add background colors and images.

I created it when I was 13, and unfortunately, I didn’t come up with a very meaningful username. The interface used to be full of ads, news flash, and link to the downloadable toolbar, and spam, among other things. I later moved on from Yahoo! to Outlook. Yahoo! has been dealing with data breach issues1 lately.

Outlook.com

After high school, I started using Outlook.com email. At that time, Microsoft launched Windows 8, and Outlook.com came with a flat metro-look, which was much cleaner and refreshing than Yahoo! which used was ad-ridden. Outlook also had ads, but it was on the sidebar and didn’t distract as much.

I fell in love with the intuitive, fast interface with other offerings of the platform like SkyDrive (later OneDrive), OneNote. It felt professional and calm—however, Outlook didn’t (and I think still does not) have an efficacious spam filter. I used the OneNote app and used OneDrive as well on my phone though I was not too fond of the Outlook.com email app. Additionally, like many, I was a victim of data breaches of Adobe, Tumblr, and others that worsened the spam issue.

Spam, falling quality of the mobile apps, and some adverse changes to the web UI caused the experience to be malaise, and I wanted to move forward.

Gmail

I still use Outlook for some older correspondence, though I moved on to Gmail after the UI overhaul2 and addition of smart features. Gmail feels far ahead than any competitor in its AI features like Smart Reply and Smart compose3 and has advanced filters and colored labels. Its integration with Google Docs and Google Drive, among other services, is excellent and easy-to-work. It’s effortless to use Google multiple accounts on the same device, and signing in from one Google product to another is quite seamless.

Google account is a default sign-in option for many Android devices making the whole experience a lot more fluid. Google Photos, YouTube Premium, and YouTube Music need a Google account as well.

Hey Email

HEY email wants to provide a very different user experience with a focus on privacy. Straight off the bat, there are no ads, and there’s no free account. It starts at $99/year and comes with 100 GB. Though, I don’t think just being ad-free makes a good case for HEY email. Compared to this, Outlook.com’s Premium ad-free email version starts at $69/year comes with 1 TB storage and desktop versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

So, what’s so different in Hey email?

Security and Privacy

HEY encrypts the databases at work and rest. It does not support IMAP, POP, and SMTP. Once you’re a paid customer, you must add a second factor for authentication. HEY supports it through TOTP and Security Keys.

Moreover, HEY blocks trackers from various email marketing/newsletter platforms. Emails like newsletters, promotions, notifications, typically have tracking code/pixel in them, usually for analytics. Of course, such information and tracking can be misused. Here’s a detailed post from Mike Davidson on Superhuman’s tracking feature.

HEY does not want to disturb you, so it does not notifications are not on by default. You can do that based on your choice and which sender you’d fancy notifications from.

Screen In/Out

HEY is not a traditional email platform. HEY appears a lot more like start from scratch. It is affable and relaxed, yet professional and productive. HEY does some work for you before you see any email. First of all, you’ll see emails from only those you’d like to receive email from.

Unlike other services where you can mark the email as spam and create a filter for it, in HEY, the senders are ‘screened out.’ If you do not screen in a sender, their emails do not find a way to your mailbox.

Imbox, The Feed, Paper Trail

HEY separates the incoming emails from screened-in senders into three sections:

  1. Imbox: The important emails that you’d like to see first.
  2. The Feed: Newsletters and anything you’d read at your own time.
  3. Paper Trail: Receipts, and transactional emails.

When you can the first email from a sender, you can select which of these sections you want HEY to put it in. This can always be changed later. I think these are pretty. While the inbox can be filtered with labels and folders, I think I need to update them regularly, or it can leave my inbox cluttered.

Reply Later, Set Aside, Clips, Files

HEY Email Review - Deepak Bansal

If you’d like to reply to an email later or consult any critical email at a later time in a traditional email platform, you’d want to star (like Gmail) or flag (Outlook) it or mark it unread. In my experience, I ‘star’ the email for any of the above two use cases. However, in HEY, you can divide them into different sections:

  1. Reply Later: You can put emails you’d like to reply at another time in this section. Then click “Focus and Reply” to see the emails from this section in an expanded list where you can reply to them one by one (or not, if you’d rather keep it in Reply Later).
  2. Set Aside: Any essential emails that you will need to see later, like Tickets, Boarding Pass, can be put in this section.
  3. Clips: If you want to remember a small part of the email instead of the whole email and keep it easily accessible, you can use Clips, which clips and saves the piece you’d like for with link back to the email itself.
  4. Files: You can look up all the files you’ve received in the emails together. These can then be filtered based on type and sender.

Other Useful Features

  1. Note to Self: I find this feature really useful. If you’d like to add context to an email for yourself from a conversation/communication outside that email, HEY allows you to do it a note.
  2. Sticky: This feature is similar to the above but applies to the whole conversation.
  3. Read Together: I often feel the need to reference two emails together, and traditionally, the only way to do it is to open them in different tabs. But with HEY, you can select two or more emails and read them together on one screen.
  4. Labels: Like Gmail, you can create labels for emails, and automatically, any email to yourusername+label@hey.com will possess that label.

I’ve listed those features here, which I find significant, and I think they can help in my workflow. There are many other features that you can look up on HEY.com including a plan to support custom domains. I think email HEY is not just an email sending/receiving tool with a different UI. It’s an email productivity tool. HEY lays out an email management plan that can improve your day-to-day workflow, save time, and increase productivity.

However, unlike Gmail, Outlook.com, and ProtonMail, HEY does not have a Calendar or Drive, which means for these products, you’ll still use other services. But since HEY has just started, I see a vast potential for it going forward.

I’ve subscribed to HEY. I want to see if this redefinition of email workflow improves my productivity. Within the last few days of light usage, I find it helpful:

  • The UI is clean. There are no ads, of course.
  • There is no bloat of other tools you might want to use
  • Reading newsletters is more fun, and I can clip any information to come to it later.
  • Seeing no starred emails feel less stressful for some reason.
  • It’s easy to remember which emails I need to reply to.

Basecamp CEO Jason fried has posted a detailed overview on YouTube, which I find impressive and helpful in understanding the service’s thinking.

However, can this service provide a more efficient and productive workflow than Gmail or a tool like Superhuman? Furthermore, can it provide more security and privacy than platforms like ProtonMail and Tutanota? HEY says that they’re not competing with these platforms. So, the question remains on individual users and their workflows, as to what fits it best. To answer it for myself, I’m a subscriber now, testing the service thoroughly and expect to come up with the answer in my first year!


  1. That Yahoo data breach actually hit three billion accounts | Wired UK ↩︎

  2. Stay composed: here’s a quick rundown of the new Gmail ↩︎

  3. How to enable and use Gmail’s AI-powered Smart Reply and Smart Compose tools - The Verge ↩︎