Square Cash & E-mail as a Platform

May 10, 2014

I made my first Square Cash transaction yesterday, and was delighted by the fluidity of the product. The money is in my recipient’s bank as of today with no pain on either side.

(This is in sharp contrast to PayPal, which I tried to get working originally before giving up and swearing to never come back. Again.)

For those not familiar with the service, it requires the linking of a Visa of Mastercard debit card for both the sender and the recipient, then sending an e-mail with a dollar amount in the subject line and “cash@square.com” CC’ed:

Date: Fri, 9 May 2014 19:34:46 +0200
From: Brandur <brandur@brandur.org>
To: dwarf@example.com
Cc: cash@square.com
Subject: $10.00

Here's the $10 I promised for that e-book!

Especially for a heavy Mutt user, this really is a perfectly ideal solution. The whole process of opening Mutt, drafting an e-mail in $EDITOR, and hitting the send button takes only seconds, an order of magnitude difference even compared to logging into a bank’s web console or muddling around with the slow, over-animated interface of a modern smartphone.

Although sending money by this channel might be relatively new, e-mail being used as a platform for interacting with foreign services is a long-standing concept that I hope we’ll continue to see. I’ve long appreciated how I can reply via e-mail when someone uses Facebook to send me a message, or get notified when something changes in a GitHub repository that I’ve been watching. While newer services like App.net declare that they’ll become the ubiquitous communications platform for the new web, e-mail has been quietly playing the role since the beginning.

Some modern mail streams can be high volume, but as implied before, e-mail clients provide the tools that we need to work with them, whether that’s spam filtering, automatic sorting, prioritization, or muting functions. Even Steve Jobs was known to occasionally reply to externally sent e-mails that made it back to his not-entirely-unknown “sjobs@apple.com” account.

This is one channel that I hope to see exploited even further in the coming years.

Square Cash & E-mail as a Platform was published on May 10, 2014.

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