Microsoft Teams and Zoom have a new rival that promises, oh, not this surely

This is a new videoconferencing app with a big difference. It's been created by gamers.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

See how joyful they are?

Screenshot by ZDNet

You're surviving in the new world.

You've become used to videoconferencing. You know when to mute your microphone, hide your camera or pretend you're somewhere you're not.

But have you ever asked yourself this: What it would it look like if the likes of Microsoft Teams and Zoom had been designed by gamers?

No, I haven't either. You might admit, though, that the world of gaming is so much more enticing and fun than the world of, say, work.

Please follow me, then, as I walk you toward the Pied Piperish world of Tangle.

No, I'm not sure about the name, either. I don't want to be tangled up in videoconferences. I want to be in and out, so that I can subsequently shake it all about and go for a walk.

Still, Tangle seems built on a premise that is a touch troubling. The company claims it's "aimed to bring joy to remote collaboration."

"Stop already!," I hear you wail. "This isn't a world of joy. No videoconferencing app can make you feel joyful when the world around you is patently bonkers."

Well, the company behind Tangle is so confident of its joybringing skills that it's actually called absurd:joy. (Yes, I spelled that right.)

The joyous absurdists insist that Tangle is "optimized for creativity, natural serendipity and those swivel-around moments that are so difficult to achieve in a virtual/remote setting."

Watching the Tangle video, I tried to feel joyful. It promised that you can hear "chatter like a coffee shop." Is that what you want to hear? Oh, perhaps.

Tangle allows you to drop into someone's room, as if you've parachuted onto the little desk in their bedroom.

You can even wander about and "hop into a meeting."

"Hullo. What are you all talking about?"

"Sales strategy."

"Oh, forget that. Let's talk about last night's game. That's far more joyful."

You can even create an avatar of yourself. Me, I'd try to make mine joyful but fear it wouldn't be authentic.

Cy Wise, absurd:joy's co-founder, offered these words: "We created Tangle for ourselves. To collaborate meaningfully with our team. To jump into side conversations with each other seamlessly. To do focus work without being isolated. To leave notes on each other's doors. To wander by our artist's desk to see the concept art strung up around it. To laugh at the memes left on whiteboards in meetings we weren't a part of. "

Now doesn't that sound like joyful work? But wait, if this is just a self-evocation product, why is it now emerging into the wider sphere?

"After months of building games as a team with Tangle as our primary communication platform," Wise said, "our friends began begging us for access and we realized that sharing this tool could bring us, our friends, and many others in many industries, vastly more joy."

Begging, they were. On their knees. Virtually.

It's wise to have respect here. These are the people behind Owlchemy Labs, sold to Google just four years ago.

I do, though, worry.

I imagine only certain sorts of businesses want to have this much, um, fun. I struggle to conceive of Jamie Dimon, Barry Diller or, oh, Tim Cook having such spontaneous workdays.

I have a greater worry. The joy thing.

Not so long ago, Cisco's Webex had the audacity -- nay, gall -- to suggest that Webex was so uplifting that "work becomes joy."

If you say it, it will be so.

One hopes that, as Tangle is developed, it becomes something that at least many people believe is an improvement on the likes of Teams and Zoom.

I worry, though, that too much Tangling may give me a headache.

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