Billy Connolly used to do this routine years ago, about the small ads for utter crap that you get in the back of the Sunday papers. Trenchcoats, the big slipper, incontinence pants and, crucially, the lethal-looking thing for cutting your own hair. You order it, get it through the post and find out that if you so much as put it near your hair, huge chunks fall out; that’s how lethal it is. Billy’s advice: don’t hide it in a drawer. Throw it away. Otherwise one night you’ll get home after a night on the sauce and find it, and suddenly cutting your own hair will seem like a really good idea, with the result that you end up looking like Arthur Scargill.
Over the last couple of days I’ve been playing with an iPhone app that’s a lot more dangerous than that. It’s called Zapd and it could quite easily ruin your life.
It sells itself as this brilliant microblogging tool. It boasts that you’ll be able to use it to create a beautiful web site in 60 seconds, on your iPhone. And it’s kind of right. You pick a template, give your site a name, post some words or a picture or a link, hit Publish and you’re done. You have a site, sitting in a randomly generated subdomain of zapd.co, in less time than it’s taken me to write this paragraph, and for free.
Want people to know about it? That’s fine; there’s an option before you hit Publish to send out a notification via Facebook or Twitter or email. And once you’ve made your site, adding entries is just as easy. The only thing I don’t really like about it is that there’s no landscape mode, which limits its potential for making text entries a little.
There are more themes and video posting and a few other options in the pipeline, but it’ll still be a pretty basic service. And that’s what’s so clever about it. It’s basic and it’s easy and it does the job, on your iPhone, almost instantly.
Which is pretty damn dangerous. Yeah, it’s great for getting a site online when you need it right now and all you have is your iPhone. You might be on holiday, or in the queue for the latest Apple thing, or a special family gathering. All of these are perfectly valid uses of Zapd.
Alternatively. It’s Friday night. You’re down the pub. You’ve had a few drinks, set the world to rights, banged a few tables. You’re in the sort of zone where lapses of judgement have been known to occur; where things seem like a really good idea that, in the cold light of day, probably aren’t. You’re carrying an instant online publishing and promotional tool and it suddenly occurs to you that you could make a page all about your pubic hair, with photos. That’d be really fucking funny, you know? Everyone’ll love that! Better let them all know on Facebook and Twitter. Brilliant!
Then the next morning you wake up and remember and have to kill yourself. Yes, you can easily delete your brilliant new site, but let’s face it: shit’s gone viral. From now on you’re the guy who made that site about his pubes. There’s no getting past that. Ever.
Which is what’s so dangerous about Zapd. It removes vital, life-saving obstacles between things seeming a really good idea at the time, and actually doing them. You think things can get bad if you tweet after midnight or decide to send a drunk 2AM text to an ex? Compared with the life-wrecking potential of Zapd, such shameful transgressions are trifling things.
So by all means have a play with Zapd. Marvel at how , in the right circumstances, it could be really useful, actually. Give your cat his own online shrine. Whatever; once you’ve finished playing, don’t leave it on your phone where you’ll be able to find it again on Friday night after seven pints of Amstel.
Better still, delete it and try to forget what it’s called, so you can’t nab it off the App Store again through a fighty Dutch lager haze. It’s the only way to be sure.