Talkshow, a new iOS app out today, wants to shift the act of texting from a closed-door conversation to a public chat anyone can view. Created by former Twitter exec Michael Sippey, the app lets anyone create a "show" and start talking with friends. The thread, which operates much like a chat room, is viewable by anyone on Talkshow who follows you, but only those who are invited to the show may participate in the conversation. The idea is not too novel, but it is reacting to a specific desire: every day, users on text-heavy social platforms post screenshots of private texts so friends, or fans in the case of celebrities, can share in the experience.
On a deeper level, Sippey took the design of his former employer's product and engineered out what many have found unpleasant and obnoxious. Because all tweets are public, any user can interject themselves into an exchange on Twitter. Only through careful blocking and anti-harassment measures can you try and mitigate the risk of having your feed flooded by third parties. (Twitter's fight on this front is a never-ending battle.) With Talkshow, you can enjoy the public performance aspect of hosting a transparent online exchange without fear of being stampeded by unwanted visitors.
Talkshow reimagines how Twitter handles public conversations
Sippey says the app was inspired by a text exchange between Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran that, once posted on Swift's Instagram account, quickly went viral. "This little exchange is funny, it’s personal, and even though Tay and Ed are multi-platinum superstars, their conversation is relatable," Sippey writes in a blog post. "Why? Because everybody texts!" Sippey says Talkshow is designed to let people, famous or not, share these conversations in front of an audience.
The app supports more than just text. You can add photos, emoji, and GIFs. To start a show, you pick a co-host and start typing. Viewers who tune in can react with messages and even request to become a co-host. In keeping with the app's more civil-minded approach, you can ban people from following your account and viewing your shows. You can also boot people from co-host positions if they become abusive or detract from the conversation.
Sippey also wants Talkshow chats to be shareable outside the app. Every show has a permalink on the web for viewing later, and they can also be embedded in websites just like tweet threads. Of course, launching a new messaging app these days — and competing with Facebook, Snapchat, and others — is a daunting task. But Sippey has thoroughly thought through how users can and should use Talkshow. So it's promising to see an app designed from the get go to support its users rather than force them to fend off unwelcome behavior.