When you download a new app on your iPhone, it’s rare that it won’t ask you to register a username, email, and password, or demand that you connect with your Facebook, Twitter, or Google account. But a new app from Facebook’s former CTO Bret Taylor is removing that final bit of friction from the experience.
Today, Quip, the mobile productivity startup that’s raised $15 million to compete with Microsoft Office, released an update to its stripped-down word processing app. The new version brings a handful of small and incremental improvements, including the ability to import documents straight from Dropbox or Microsoft Word. But the smartest change to the app is that Quip no longer requires users to share personal information with the service when they first download the program. "Now, when you install the app on your iPhone or iPad, you don’t need to create an account," Taylor says. "You can start using it [immediately], just like you could open Microsoft Word [on your PC] and just start writing a document."
It’s a tiny but refreshing chance to the experience—one that Taylor calls a more "natural on-boarding process." With only a string of exceptions, most apps on my own phone—whether games, social, or streaming services—asked me to register with the app before they even gave me a sneak peek of how they worked. "It's even more acute in our product category—it’s very common with cloud services that you have to create an account," Taylor says. "But it’s not typical for [traditional] word processing services: You don't open Word and have to log into it [on your laptop or desktop], you know?"
In a sense, Quip’s goal is to create the anti-Microsoft Office. It’s remarkable that after this many years, Microsoft Office is still inaccessible on mobile for a broad range of customers. Redmond still hasn’t made the service available to iPad or Android tablets, which dominate the market. The reason, of course, is that Microsoft wants to leverage its productivity suite to attract sales of its Windows Phone devices and Windows 8 and RT tablets, such as its less-than-popular Surface. What’s more, Office 365 not only requires a username and password to work, it requires a subscription—$99 per year.
Taylor says he wants to remove this "huge barrier" of entry. Quip is both free and available for use without registering, at least at the beginning. You can play around with the service and edit documents without creating a login; only when you want to share a document or collaborate with others will the service ask you to register.
Again, it’s only a slight change, but one others, including Microsoft, ought to consider. Says Taylor, "We don’t want to have you make any commitment and investment up front."