Hey : DHH’s salvo against big tech

David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH), creator of Ruby on Rails and founder of Basecamp, thinks big tech is crowding out innovation. Last January, the entrepreneur took his Twitter rants directly to Congress, testifying in front of the House Antitrust Committee:

A small company like ours simply has no real agency to reject or resist the rules set by big tech. And neither do consumers. The promise that the internet was going to cut out the middleman has been broken

Last week, DHH launched Hey, an email client.

Things to know about Hey:

  • Hey reimagines a lot of core features of email, including message threading, filtering, and attachments.
  • Hey is privacy-first. It blocks tracking pixels, labeling them as “spy trackers.”
  • Hey is hot :fire:. It was Product Hunt’s most popular launch last week. Early beta invites were selling for $300 a piece on eBay.

But Hey isn’t just an email client: it’s DHH’s salvo against big tech. Hey takes on Gmail and Apple Mail directly, with competing web and iOS apps.

To some extent, the game is rigged against Hey. Apple attempted to levy a 30% App Store fee on Hey subscriptions, despite the fact that Hey doesn’t actually allow in-app purchases (payments happen on the web). While Apple’s actions were not necessarily in response to the competition, they do call out Apple’s incredible power over app developers.

Some skeptics can’t help but think that the fight against Apple is just a marketing ploy. It might have been. But if big tech monopolies stifle innovation, society advances more slowly, and that’s bad for everyone. DHH put up a stink over the App Store fees, prompting Apple to change their App Store Review guidelines to be more transparent.

But mostly, Hey is just a small team taking on giants to fix a broken system. They’ve still got a long way to go, and we’re rooting for them.