Pond is a lo-fi, email-based alternative to traditional social networks. You can call it a 'social newsletter service'. Or 'a much better looking listserv'. Or 'Usenet, but make it HTML'.
How Pond works
To register for Pond, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word 'register' as the subject and your username of choice in the email body. You'll get a welcome email teaching you all of Pond's magic commands.
Once you're registered, every Friday you'll get the Pond Digest - an email containing all the posts made on Pond that week. There's your 'newsletter service' element.
If you particularly like someone's posts, you can follow them. If you're following people, every Friday you'll also get a Personal Digest - an email containing only posts from the people you follow. There's the 'social' element.
And that's it! You can also read old digests and stuff. It's all in the welcome email.
Is Pond free?
Pond's current features (posting, the digests, and following) will always be free to use. Mail services and servers are expensive, so in the future Pond may provide users with the ability to create subscription-only newsletters to keep itself sustainable.
Why is it called Pond?
It might be short for 'correspond'. Alternatively, it could be an acronym for Public Online Newsletter Delivery. You are limited only by your imagination, frankly.
This seems dumb
Look, nobody's forcing you to register. But do you honestly enjoy receiving entertainment and information in a constant, daily stream? If you do, then Pond is probably not for you. You might also not enjoy Pond if you get a visceral reaction of horror every time you receive an email, although on the other hand, getting the digest might make you feel a bit better.
Privacy and security
This is all explained in the welcome email (why haven't you signed up yet? Why are you still here?) but here it is again:
When you use Pond, we store the following data on our database: your email address, the last time you used Pond, and the contents and timestamp of any posts and comments you've made. That's it. We will never share this data with anyone.
When you ask us to delete a post, your email address, or all your data, we do it. No questions asked! We'll keep a log that the deletion happened, but your data won't be in the log.
We use a third-party mail service (Mailgun) to send out emails. As of July 2020, that means your email address will be kept on Mailgun's servers for 30 days after it is last used, and email contents for 7 days. For the latest information, see Mailgun's GDPR Policy.
Who is responsible for this?
Pond is made by Raphael Kabo. People including Mike Elgan and Alan Henry have written about the idea of email as a social network before, and Substack is like a halfway point between a blog and a newsletter.