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Truly unified inbox – BlackBerry got it right and nobody has since (lolfi.com)
286 points by nvr219 8 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 306 comments





I love email, had a Blackberry and that thing was just great.

Today, I have everything I can go to email. If I could get it all, I would.

I do not need or want lots of silos. I do want one store, some rules, and for it to operate off line and async.

Replacing email will take a lot. There was email before http. I have seen nothing even close to the simple utility, robustness of email, never mind anything that looks to endure like email has.

I have almost all email I have ever received. Amazing. And it just works. The better search is, the better it works. There are tons of emails to myself too. I know I can search them and read what past me suspected present me needs to know and that all weaves right in.

I wish more things worked as well and like email does.

RSS is one of those things, BTW.

USENET is another one, but well out of favor. Fact is, someone could spiff USENET up and it could very easily come back.

Async, threaded discussion is amazing. Make inline media a little easier, and... yeah.

Problem is none of those high utility things are sexy.

Maybe there should be a floor that just works well. Maybe we are not all that well served by all these attempts to disrupt and own people through what are important interactions.

Big conflict of interest there, if you ask me. It matters now, is lean, mean, near universally used.

Ok, so what is there really to disrupt?

Not much.

And that is why I love email. Unlike just about every other thing I have loved, it will be there, and I will not have to think about it much. It is awful nice to have something be that way.

Nice enough for me to think long and hard about putting it at any kind of risk.


> Unlike just about every other thing I have loved, it will be there, and I will not have to think about it much. It is awful nice to have something be that way.

Well said. Email is the universal killer app for perpetuity.

And the lesson here is that it is so because nobody owns it, we all own it. It can't go bankrupt, it can't pivot to be something else, it can't lose all its best features when a new product manager is promoted and wants to make a statement. Things that every proprietary system will do and eventually disappear.

I have all email I've wanted to preserve back into about 1990 and I can read it just the same as back then. I will, guaranteed, be able to continue to access it with no change for as long as I live. No proprietary app will ever come close to matching this longevity.

Because it is an open standard I own my entire pipeline. I can receive, send, filter, script, trigger on content, automate.. there are no limits. It's my data.

I centralize everything to email. RSS goes to email, sites I scrape go to email, signal goes to email. If I can't pipe it to email somehow, I don't really have the time to deal with that kind of special snowflake. Email me.

Email is the unix pipe of communication, infinitely flexible to taste.


Email is async, distributed, offline first, nobody controls the complete platform.

What is needed to fix email is to have structured messages, which can better be automated. Either on the MUA or MDA. But exactly this standardization of message structures is something that won't happen anymore... It's not the '90s anymore


> What is needed to fix email is to have structured messages [...] something that won't happen

You're right in a way that this "won't happen", because Google Wave already tried it, but I think what's really needed is a killer client that supports unstructured email and gets into a position whereby they can add structure (and get adoption thereof).

Take for example Fastmail's JMAP. They started by supporting IMAP, and they'll continue to support it for a long time. But, despite Fastmail not being the biggest provider in the world, we're still seeing adoption of JMAP by others.

I could see the same happening with a really well-made open client. It would have to be "modern" (a GUI that handles & sends HTML mail well), and it would have to have good UX to deal with the awful idiosyncrasies of closed providers (e.g. Gmail's broken IMAP, Google Accounts' non-standard auth measures, etc.). Once those work well, one could create a new Content-Type for structured metadata and start sending it as part of multipart mails: most clients would ignore it at first and render plaintext.

This might be less efficient (bandwidth-wise) than traditional email at first, but could improve on that with adoption.


"Fix"

Fix what again?


One "fix" could be an opt-in key, which you can revoke. A new sender will enter your inbox, and can be more easily identified as spam. You can send an opt-in key, which skips the filters, or at least puts the message in your inbox.

If you notice unwanted emails (maybe from another sender), you'll know: - the sender is misusing the key - if the key had been compromised / sold / stolen, the new sender is a misbehaving party (maybe can't use the key if it's linked to the sender address or domain)

You can then revoke the key, and block the sender. The MTAs can use this information to blacklist abusers.

When the key is revoked, the sender will need to re-request a new one.

The 'solution' here is that the key is now something valuable and linked to their operations, so they won't resell this. It also becomes apparent when keys have been stolen. It would also be possible to add automatic key rotation (key update when sending an email).


I just put these "keys" into the local part of the email address, no additional protocol "fixes" needed. I can make up keys on the fly then add the filter for them later whenever I get home. It is very obvious when a sender has sold or shared an address and I blackhole accordingly (this is actually extremely rare).

hey.com supports exactly what described.

hey.com doesn't support much else of email

Fix the constant desire of everyone to re-invent/move away from & generally denounce email as a platform.

If you think email is perfect as it is, you're living in a bubble and are ignoring the pains of countless people. You may have an email setup that works perfectly for your needs, but if it was easy for everyone to have the same, no-one would be trying to re-invent it.


Oh, and lets be clear:

I do not believe for a minute all this wanting to replace email is about the pain of countless people. There is pain, no doubt. I have some myself.

It is all about massive adoption being equated to massive dollars. That tends to amplify these things.


Right. When a company says "let's fix email with a better solution", it is very clear what they really mean is "we want to lock people into our proprietary channel and profit". What's good for the user long term is not a factor to them.

> I do not believe for a minute all this wanting to replace email is about the pain of countless people. There is pain, no doubt. I have some myself.

To clarify my point: I think people try to replace email because they're frustrated with email and believe it can't meet their needs. Personally, I believe email could meet some of their needs were it improved to alleviate some of their frustrations. And I wish some people would direct their efforts toward improving email rather than trying to replace it.

Then again, maybe I should be taking my own advice.


And I question needs vs wants.

Many people are all about how they want to work. They may or may not be about how others work, working together, or willing to adapt how they work.

And we all have reasons, no worries, no judgement.

That said, I have seen many wants framed as needs. Have done that myself. Have also adapted how I work to see those things evaporate away too.

What is worth what?

Sometimes working differently is lower risk, friction for higher value than attempting to work in a specific way can be.

Cheers!


There is making something new, that reinvention, and there is making better use of what is there now.

What you want is not email.

So make what you want, and if it really does reduce the pain of countless people, it will see broad use, right?

And if it does not?

Send me an email, we can talk about it.

Maybe what you want to do can ride in an email?

Great, do that. And again, if countless people feel better, they can run clients that help them feel better.


> What you want is not email.

What I want is email, with the pains ironed out. I do not want anything fundamentally new. I just want to use what I'm currently using, and have it work as it currently works, minus current frustrations.

These frustrations vary from person-to-person (mine are numerous, some I'd be happy to live with, but others genuinely bother me daily), so fixing enough of them to appease a large portion of email users is no small task, but I think email is a good enough foundation that doing so is worth pursing.

I don't see much value in telling everyone their complaints re: email are invalid and they should accept it as is without improvements.

> So make what you want

That's a fair point, and maybe I should. It would certainly be better than posting aimlessly about it in internet comments. As mentioned above though, it's no small task.


I did not tell you those things. You inferred them.

And that is OK, no worries.

Do make that thing. I will look at it with interest like any new thing.


The wave of emails which are difficult to process automatically, and the fact that you can email anybody (which also is the great thing about it)

There are some standards for invoicing.

Another great application is Civilization over SMTP.


The opt-in key I use is a unique address for each vendor / organization. If their email database is "leaked" or otherwise sold out, I can delete the alias and they are dead to me. This makes email rules much easier for me.

I refuse to believe that most of our "unique" emails addresses and GMail suffixed email addresses are not already being collected and matched across the vast networks of fingerprinting data that companies can purchase.

I'm sure google do this, but I won't use gmail. I have some of my domains on fastmail for family members to use and the rest of them on a VM that I simply run postfix and read emails as text files. My own mail server supports infinite number of aliases and there is no tracking on my own mail server since every email is text and the server discards MDN's. If I need to read html, I pipe the email to a parsemime perl script from 2001.

Fastmail makes some attempt at blocking tracking, not perfect, depends on user preference and default is to allow remote images. [1] Another advantage to this method is that if I get annoyed with Fastmail, I can update DNS and they are out of the picture.

[1] - https://www.fastmail.help/hc/en-us/articles/1500000278102-Bl...


Google Reader made RSS feel just like Gmail (which isn't the same as email in general I will agree, but close enough for many people). It was fast, dense, and easy to scan days and weeks of content in a single sitting. I'm _still_ mad they gave it the axe so Vic Gundotra could juice the numbers on failing Google+.

Well, RSS stands against the entire Google’s business model, so the Reader was doomed from the start. Google later went all in to discredit and eliminate the entire idea of feeds and aggregators, as it was dangerous for its business, which required maximizing users engagement and removing their ability to skip ads.

In the past I’ve felt the opposite of your sentiment.

I’ve found my email to be unwieldy. I’ve felt like I have to apply constant hygiene and maintenance to keep it from becoming useless.

Checking out on an e-commerce site, trying out a new tool, registering a free trial...these are things I guess I do frequently enough that it seems to doom me to sort and sift through noise.

I know the common solutions are a good set of filtering rules or separate emails/aliases. I lean toward the latter and it’a definitely helped but I still find it all a bit of a pain and time sink.

That said, you make a nice case for it and I can definitely identify with some of the ‘zen’ of email you’re describing.

I feel like I’ve tried every email client out there, but is there some solution I haven’t thought of of where I get a friendly GUI but can configure mail filtering in code (i.e something I can keep in git) rather than clicking around?

I’ve toyed with ideas of bundling by sender - or quietly placing new senders into their own ‘message requests’ type bin for me to approve or deny.

Or some kind of intelligence for identifying, for example, a receipt or confirmation email (which I want indexed) vs a promotional email from the same vendor (which I do not).


> I feel like I’ve tried every email client out there, but is there some solution I haven’t thought of of where I get a friendly GUI but can configure mail filtering in code (i.e something I can keep in git) rather than clicking around?

A couple jobs ago, before I gave up on processing all my mail, I had a perl script that grabbed headers from IMAP (with caching, because Exchange is slooooow), and filtered with code (basically a list of pairs of code refs that took a message => what folder to move the message if the code returned something truthy (or maybe the code returned a folder... not sure anymore). This let me do things that are hard in server side filters like moving things only when it's read.


Not opting into marketing spam (or opting out immediately in the website's settings) takes care of 99% of it for me. On a set of ~250 accounts I will maybe receive one marketing e-mail per month (and they quickly get a complaint to their data protection officer to discourage that happening again).

For transactional stuff a set of rules to automatically read+archive stuff that you need to keep (invoices, receipts, order notifications, etc) but don't necessary need to action.

This leaves you with only the relevant stuff in the inbox and makes it much easier to do "inbox zero". I will typically get less than one email a day actually landing in my inbox using this technique.


> Or some kind of intelligence for identifying, for example, a receipt or confirmation email (which I want indexed) vs a promotional email from the same vendor (which I do not).

Yeah, one thing where even statistical filtering sucks. Usually there's not enough confirmation vs promo samples to train a filter and some senders tend to use the same templates for both.

It can only be done manually.


Sieve is a mail filtering language you can look into.

For Unix there are many tools with filtering as this is an old problem Fdm, procmail, maildrop

Unfortunately despite just being text, email has become a monolithic black box for most which limits what you can do with the text.


> quietly placing new senders into their own ‘message requests’ type bin for me to approve or deny.

New email services like Hey.com or Onmail.com are doing this. It looks like this kind of feature is getting some traction.


1. Mark them all as spam. I never accept newsletters so I will consider every newsletter email as spam. They don't last much in my inbox.

2. Try inbox zero and just archive emails aggressively directly from your phone’s notification without even opening email.

My inbox currently has 10 emails that one day I'll get to and the rest of spam and transactional email is just gone from view within the hour or day.

I wish I could have an "important" and a "transactional" email view, but that's not going to happen without a lot of work, so email search still sucks.


> so email search still sucks

Email is a standard set of protocols and wire formats. So it doesn't make sense to say email search sucks.

If your email client doesn't support satisfactory search, switch clients. Which you can do because it's a standard, not a proprietary app.


> it doesn't make sense to say email search sucks.

Yes it does, because in almost every case it sucks :) The only one where it doesn't is where it's all indexed by Google (the bad option) or where you index it all locally (e.g. with mu). The second is a slightly less bad option but not by much.


> Yes it does, because in almost every case it sucks :)

I mean I get it but fundamentally it's not true. Might seem like a nitpick but it's not. If slack search sucks, that's an absolute statement. It is what it is and there's nothing you can do about other than beg a product manager at slack to make it better but they'll likely ignore you.

With email, an open standard, you can just switch clients. Or bypass clients entirely and handle search separately. There are no limits to what you can do.


Well, I use "the bad option" for search when I need to perform a potentially painful one. Just a depot where every thing gets copied.

I find it, potentially forward something and then carry on.


No, it doesn't. :)

I happen to use an email client with better search and tagging than Gmail.


And it would be? :D

Cleaner, faster, ad-free :D

And... more secure, detecting zero-days Gmail won't :D

Care to share?

It sucks because transactional emails still show up next to important emails. What’s a client that separates this without me manually doing so (via filter or whatever)?

Gmail is good at this when splitting the inbox, but after that it’s all forgotten (unless, once again, you add a manual filter to exclude such emails)


The idea of Blackberry's unified list really resonates with me! And I strongly endorse your two tips, they really help.

About your important/transactional split: shameless self plug but I'm working on a project that's all about a unified list, and one part of that is splitting incoming into important and not important. If you check it out, feedback welcome! garrett@[productname].com

https://www.twobird.com/


> USENET is another one, but well out of favor. Fact is, someone could spiff USENET up and it could very easily come back.

Fwiw this does seem to work pretty well:

https://forum.dlang.org/help

> About

> This website is powered by DFeed, an NNTP / mailing list web frontend / forum software, news aggregator and IRC bot. DFeed was written mostly by Vladimir Panteleev. The source code is available under the GNU Affero General Public License on GitHub: https://github.com/CyberShadow/DFeed

> This DFeed instance (forum.dlang.org) is a frontend to the DigitalMars NNTP server and mailing lists. Portions of the web interface (including style and graphics) are Copyright © by Digital Mars.

I've looked at dfeed a couple of times, but it seems just a little bit convoluted to set up - and I wouldn't really want an irc integration.

But the web forum is snappy and the NNTP integration seems like a great idea.


I think sites like Reddit are the modern version of Usenet. The subreddits aren't hierarchical, but I'm not sure that matters.

The clear problem with that is the lack of federation, but I don't think users generally care about that.


> I think sites like Reddit are the modern version of Usenet.

Closed, propiatary, with separate ux/client for every silo? They are not usenet in any meaningful way.

They're more like bbs forums in a world were there was no improvements made, and the internet never happened.

The only thing (most) have, is that for traffic purposes they allow spiders like Google and Bing to enable federated search.

But there are variants like Instagram that allow search, but force login - and things like Facebook groups, that are opaque.

The ux of most forums (including hn) is terrible. HNs one saving grâce is that it's simple (as it should be).

I don't mean to jump on you; I get that things like reddit is a place were all people can exchange messages - but I don't think that makes it modern usenet. Just like mailing lists were/are not usenet.


I say it's the modern version of Usenet because anybody can create a subreddit and as a result a group exists for just about everything you can think of. Compare the process of creating a new subreddit to the process for creating a non-alt newsgroup[1]. In some ways, Reddit is arguably more open than Usenet.

The defining characteristics of Usenet was not the license or client (IMHO the UX of most NNTP clients was pretty terrible for casual users) but the content. There was a group for everything that anybody could access as long as their ISP provided access. If you asked me if there was some place on the internet that had a discussion group for everything I'd probably say Reddit is the closest thing. All you need is a connection to the internet and a browser and you can start reading. Posting requires an account but they are free.

I agree with you that forums, BBS message boards and mailing lists are nothing like Usenet.

[1]: https://www.savetz.com/yic/YIC05FI_26.html


The UX here is excellent!

Threaded discussion is best done simple, and that is what we have.


Hehe, I am a fan of hn, but it's very bare bones compared to something like mutt or (al)pine.

That said, there's a couple of decades of horrible web platforms from nuke/phpbb thorough reddit and Twitter. It's not exactly high price to be "not as stupid" as all the the ones taking pride in their convoluted stupidity...


Bare bones does not mean a poor UX.

What we have here is dead simple, works great, very lean, effective.

All excellent.

We could have more and that may or may not trend toward excellent.


DISCLAIMER: To all chat-app haters, my point is that the user experience of these newfangled services is just much better, o course I'm not taking into acct all the very real concerns stemming rom these apps.

Since your talking about user experience, (not mentioning privacy, security, etc.). How is email better in terms of usability than say Telegram or any other app.

Which keep every chat you've ever had.

You can "Save" chats for yourself for later.

You can have usenet-style conversations in huge mega-groups.

You can follow the latest news from channels just like RSS.

All without needing to keep the data downloaded on your device, and backed up in the cloud.

Basically all those separate services you mention (with separate software required to be downloaded to view them) are rolled into in any one-stop-shop chat app. Oh, and it also has phone and video calls too.


I like Telegram a lot. Has merit in the ways you mention, and it is pretty lean, not too much going on, not pushy either.

None of this replaces email.

A big one is I am not sure I will have every Telegram chat I received a decade or two from now, and I will have all my email.

Another is everyone uses email. Not everyone uses other apps. So far Telegram is entertainment only. That is fine.

Email can act like chat, chat is not email.

I very strongly disagree with better. Different? Yup. More experiences possible? Yup.

But not better. Email is killer. And it is not hard, is time tested, production proven, near ubiquitous.

UX is bang on simple, and I hardly ever think about it.

"Better" needs some reevaluation to be frank. I see a general failure to understand why email is great. That means a claim of better UX may make very little sense.


I agree about email. And the main thing, and what distinguishes it from Telegram, etc., is that it is a protocol, not an app. You can use any client you want, or write your own.

Telegram is one of the few messengers that actually enables you to use any Telegram client available, or write your own[1].

The protocol that is de facto Telegram is called MProto[2], and is publicly available.

§

[1]: https://telegram.org/apps

[2]: https://core.telegram.org/mtproto

§

edit: The main difference between email and Telegram, is that anyone can host email servers, while Telegram manages theirs.

edit2: MProto being widely available to study, one could perhaps reverse-engineer their own server - but that hasn't been a desire to accomplish this from what I can see. Much of the value-proposal of Telegram is their Service as a whole.


Telegram is centralised and siloed, where email isn't. You just can't compare the two.

> You just can't compare the two.

You just did.

I was responding to the claim that Telegram wasn't providing a protocol or ability for developers to author their own clients.


And point taken—I didn’t know about this, so Telegram was not an ideal example. But, as you point out, it still is not quite a decentralized as email, and, as a protocol, does not have email’s universal character. But thanks for the interesting information.

You can back up all Telegram chats including Media, of course this doesn't replace email, but the difference is just a client to parse the data and log it in a message style front end.

Overall, email is killer, I would love to move everything toward emails that I can filter, or as the OP posted, a Unified inbox.

I wonder if there is a patent on it.


> You can back up all Telegram chats including Media, of course this doesn't replace email, but the difference is just a client to parse the data and log it in a message style front end.

While this is true, there's no automatic process and it's limited to the desktop client. Email is much more convenient because of this. I can't "forget" to backup my emails for the past month or year. I know they'll be on my email server until I delete them.


I am not a chat app hater.

I am a workware app hater, unless I use it for specifics, like a meeting. For that case, I love "continue in browser" because I want to do it, and then when I am done, maybe never think about it again.

No states, other features. Just launch, have the meeting, next.

I like Skype still. I use it like I used to use IRC.

None of that is email though. If I want to send complex thoughts, I send an email. Async, robust, easy.

I really like my data in an open format, stored where I want, usable on what I want, when and how I want, and with whatever app I want.


You made it sound good except for the cloud bits. If you toss those out, it sounds like IRC, which I agree is great. However, the local logs I can dig through with `grep` and `less` very quickly are a huge part of what make IRC great for me, and why I've never felt quite as comfortable in newer stuff like XMPP and Matrix (although I do use all three regularly still).

If I have to search from within the program, I find that it's basically never as fast and as powerful as what I want. If the local logs use some sort of database instead of a plain text file, I feel my hands are tied behind my back.

This is more of a client problem than protocol problem, I think, but IRC just still has the best clients by far. I really hope some other things can come closer to matching irssi one of these days. Logging, keyboard shortcuts, scriptability and configuration, not automatically re-ordering my precious channels. So many things are worse than irssi.

Also, before someone says it, I know irssi has XMPP support, but lack of OMEMO made me not bother. Similarly, weechat has a Matrix plugin or two, which was the best Matrix experience I've had in a lot of ways, but it was super buggy and would break or constantly log me out, so I couldn't seem to stick with it.


> All without needing to keep the data downloaded on your device, and backed up in the cloud.

I'd call this a feature of email – I _can_ easily have all the stuff I need downloaded on my device. I can move email around without using a specific provider, back it up to an offline storage just like any other data, and use multiple clients without re-syncing all the emails.

Also it's perfectly possible to have email available over the Internet, only downloading things to your device when needed. Most modern email services work this way – either through webmail and/or using email protocols like IMAP.

(That's not to say that email is perfect. Far from. The content of email is a hot mess – broken HTML implementations, HTML email trying to do ungodly things, plaintext with hard line breaks, plaintext displayed with no line breaks whatsoever, RTF...)


>You can "Save" chats for yourself for later.

Can you, though? With Telegram, perhaps. But "chat" in general does not have this. Depends heavily on the service, in my experience.


Indeed. This varies widely, and the save does too.

Does not compare to email and all the options one has.


> How is email better in terms of usability than say Telegram or any other app.

> Which keep every chat you've ever had.

Telegram only promises to keep your messages for 6 months of inactivity. If you switch to something else, you're going to have to archive the messages yourself.


Sounds like you'll really like DeltaChat: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25893626

>Ok, so what is there really to disrupt? Onboarding a new person into an existing discussion

I must say, that is a non problem in my experience.

Worst case, I talk to them, done, next.


Out of interest, what email client(s) do you use?

I want to love email (I do love the platform) but I've just struggled to find a UI that I don't battle with. Especially one/some that work similarly across different devices.


I use outlook and the gmail web interface mostly.

Having used so damn many UX'es, I do not generally struggle. They work how they work. Basics are not hard. I rarely use more than basics anyway.

I quit trying for that perfect fit years ago.

Thing is it will get changed. So why bother?

Much easier to adapt and become quick to grok whatever paradigm, flow is there and get back to whatever else I am thinking about.

I have used Thunderbird and would again in a pinch. Like that one.


I haven't used Outlook, and it was my next port of call. I've used Thunderbird but I've been frustrated by it's "core" handling of mail threading (there's an extension but it doesn't integrate well with any of Thunderbird's other features, largely because it's trying to do things not envisaged by Thunderbird's addons APIs).

> They work how they work. Basics are not hard. I rarely use more than basics anyway.

I would normally agree but I'm using macOS Mail currently and it brings new definition to the word "basics". It's missing some pretty obvious things.

> the gmail web interface

I'm in web interfaces pretty often and I really like Fastmail's: strongly considering switching to use it's web UI everywhere and forgo local clients completely. I've found Gmail's usable but sluggish, which gets painful if you receive a lot of mail.


I agree with gmail now sluggish. At one time, 800ms! Today? Seconds.

I use it for personal and to search my body of pro emails forwarded to an account for that purpose.

Too bad about macOS mail.

I need to look at FastMail.

Outlook, like the rest of the Microsoft Office programs, is craptastic! It will do what you want. You will enjoy doing it less than you want, and it will generally remain worth it to do what you want.

Web only email is killer. I did that for many years.

The big thing with Outlook and exchange is business calendar integration. MS has a good solution. Forward to gmail and I get Android calendar copies for essentially free and low hassle. I do enough sales related work to justify Outlook.

I do not like Microsoft mobile apps much at all. On Android at least.

Edit: I fought with / against Outlook for years.

When I finally said, "fuck it" and used it for business, I found when I do not invest much, I do not risk much and have been happy ever since.

I just don't want to think about it all that much. The contents of those emails are what I want to think about and so that's where my focus is.


What email clients are using that produce all these rainbows and lollipops?!

I need to get in on that!


Slack exploded on the scene with a refresh of IRC.

USENET could come back with a proper refresh.


> proper refresh.

If it gets a "refresh" the way slack murdered IRC for work, I hope it never does. While were at it, slack can go straight into a volcano. Any value it adds over IRC is A. marginal and B. not work-relevant (because you can't upload anything containing sensitive data there, bearing in mind what it is...).


How would work related IRC work in practice? Everyone running their own bots so you dont miss messages? You also need a bot for push notifications, as well as one for mirroring. Also a custom solution for file sharing. I know its part of the fun.

However it does not sound suitable for a work environment.


The only value of Slack is receiving messages independent of presence (no need for a bot to keep you online), providing server-backed message history, and providing a UI that allows modern creature comforts like emoji and native images. If those are baked into an IRC client/server combo that achieves broad adoption, we might well see IRC come back as a "poor man's Slack".

No need for chat history bots if you front-end your IRCD with a web interface that has chat history, persistence. [1][2]

[1] - https://github.com/thelounge/thelounge

[2] - https://github.com/convos-chat/convos


We used to have a centralised bouncer that both fixed push notifications as well as transparent history and presence (i.e. automatic away). File sharing has been part of literally every client for so long I don't know what you want me to say about that. It works, it's p2p. What more is there?

$oldjob had that too, and it worked really well for most people - tech and business alike. I like IRC because it makes you focus on what really matters instead of some sort of seamless Giphy or Wikipedia "rich"-content integration. It's sufficiently async to not bother me at all times, and I can interact with it programmatically very, very easily.

Also, due to its rigidly ephemeral nature (ultimately depending on your personal preference of course, but the default for most clients these days - and opposed to something like Teams, which seems to store everything forever), it nudges its users to use a more suitable, more permanent medium to capture information that is to be persisted. It's clearly a different kind of animal than a wiki or an email archive/mailing list, whereas new "alternatives to email"-tools like Slack, Teams and their ilk are anything and everything in-between, which causes "now where the hell did I read that thing about that other thing..."-syndrome for me.


Well, when someone does not respond on IRC, send them an email.

Still nothing?

SMS?

At this point, maybe they are not responding for damn good reasons?


I check my work email once every 4 days on a good week, and my personal email nearly once every 2 months. Email isn't really a good channel for urgently getting in touch for some people.

True. And when discussing generalities, it is a given people with specifics will stand out. I have mine, you have yours.

Personally, I deal with others on whatever terms they tend to present to me.

So, if someone does not respond quickly, fine. Or they want SMS, or whatever, that is fine too.

I figure they have reasons, seek low friction amd give consideration I am given.



Usenet is more similar to a group mailing list, so hopefully they aren't talking about "refreshing" it to be like Slack.

I hate Slack. Unlike IRC, it is too much. And it is thick.

Many do not though, your point is good.

I love email because I rarely have to think about it. Thought is action. Same with IRC.


Like, to be fair: Many people don’t know how lean and thin IRC is, they are just happy that they get flexible channels for group communication.

But those who know, know.

I also feel like I dug in to the original code for Slack and it literally was an IRC client.


Totally.

Wouldn't USENET be Reddit?

Various subreddits, async communication, sharing of stuff. User accounts. Only major difference (and it is a big one) is voting.

I must admit I never realized Slack is IRC. It makes perfect sense.


In my opinion there is no need for voting on usenet. You can reply to anyone or ignore anyone. No global echo chambers, no global moderation beyond removing illegal content on a specific provider or filtering a usenet group on a specific provider. If you had a group of like-minded friends that wanted to ignore specific ways of thinking, then you could all contribute to your own group specific ignore-list. Corporations have no financial incentive to build around usenet for this reason, as they have zero control over the client.

The biggest issue with Usenet was spam. NNTP is an open protocol. It is supported in quite a few email clients. Have you tried Pan?

If the Usenet refresh is anything like slack I certainly won't use it.

Aren't Slack's threaded conversations basically a new take on usenet? It's not distributed, and silo'ed of course.. but it's the same idea if you squint.

> It's not distributed, and silo'ed of course..

But that's the key.

Can I write my own slack client to automate everything just the way I want to, relying only on standard APIs that cannot go away?


Same sort of flow, sort of. Not distributed and siloed are very big differences.

I agree, and I think there’s only one thing email lacks: end-to-end encryption. I’m unsettled by an unknown sysadmin accessing my life’s emails.

Decentralization was the key. There was no central server then. It was all data sync from one server to another on request and it worked well.

Email, as in the protocol, only appears robust because of all the qirks. Essentially you cant build email infrastructure 100% after RFC and expect it to work in the real world.

Is that because of RFC being incomplete or because other people started mangling messages?

second that.

today I'm no longer integrated into the workflow of a "modern dev team" but the last time I was they forced us to communicate on Slack. If I'd have to work in such a distraction-tread-mill I'd be one very unhappy camper. It's not that Slack alone is terrible but how orgs these days expect devs to use it. Some companies I've been at they made their teams announce in the main channel whenever somebody went for a break or when they got back. That's fun with 3 people but god forbid you're working with bigger groups and end up forgetting to enter that you've gone for a dump. I first thought it was only one place that has jumped the shark on common sense, but no, it's every other company since 2016 that thinks it's a great way to communicate.

email or nothing for me. Or pick up the phone (boomer!) or video call me if it's really that important. the 50 additional more ways to hassle me can F right off lol


> If I'd have to work in such a distraction-tread-mill I'd be one very unhappy camper.

Slack is quite the productivity destroyer if you let it.

I turn of all notifications and let it forward any direct mentions to email. Fortunately that works. So if anyone calls on me I'll see it in email.

Aside from that, I only read the slack channels twice a day, morning and evening and close the tab the rest of the day.

If the world is on fire, email me. Otherwise I'll see your slack chat tonight.


Slack can be truly overwhelming within some companies (ask me about it, I can go on for hours about it), but the very idea of ignoring reams of email signatures and no proper threading in email makes me shudder about using it in a work setting. I'd rather take Slack than that.

> USENET is another one, but well out of favor. Fact is, someone could spiff USENET up and it could very easily come back.

Reddit?


Usenet was decentralized.

Usenet didn't fight you if you wanted to scrape all of it. In fact, it encouraged that.

Usenet didn't require crappy "API tokens" in order to automate your interactions with it or bring your own user agent... in fact, you had to bring your own user agent; that was the only way to use it.

The only thing Reddit has in common with Usenet is good support for threaded discussions.


Reddit is not that bad with regards to scraping. You can append `.json` to any URL and it will return a JSON representation of this page: https://www.reddit.com/.json

As for API tokens, that's unfortunately just the current trend of basically every other site with user-generated content. It's unfair to single out Reddit in particular when nearly everyone else does this too.


> As for API tokens, that's unfortunately just the current trend of basically every other site with user-generated content.

Totally hilarious that you posted this on a discussion site whose API doesn't require tokens.

https://github.com/HackerNews/API


Many startups (e.g. Slack) aim to replace email, but this is backward. Email is open, standardized, and has been around for decades. The main challenge of the current information environment is multiple independent queues of items that ask for our attention: email, texts, chats, app alerts, social messages, social feeds. This would be much easier to manage in a single location, and email is the location where users have the most control. The control the user has with email is exactly the reason so many companies are trying to replace it.

The thing I hate the most about email is that they allow loading images as a third party resource, instead of requiring them to be sent with the rest of the message data. This allows companies and spammers to track when you open an email.

(They also track every link you click on, but that's a separate issue.)


> This allows companies and spammers to track when you open an email.

"Email" doesn't allow that. If your email client does, that's a flaw in the client but clients are replaceable.

I use mutt and no links are ever followed.


The "clients" are de-facto Gmail and Outlook. Those two aren't going away anytime soon.

well, good news! GMail proxies that img link. Also, Outlook by default doesn't load external images.

Others in this thread have mentioned the proxying happens right when you open the email, so doesn't really protect you.

They're not going away but you can pick something else, unlike with any proprietary system where the client is not a choice.

Only if you define them as such. I am quite happy with Thunderbird, which also allows me to read my RSS feeds.

That's why some clients won't load images by default, only by request

I was disappointed to see the Gmail app on the Pixel actually automatically loads images for emails in the spam folder, with no way to turn them off except to turn off image loading across the board.

Gmail already proxies images in emails to their own servers.

But they still only request them when the client views them and not beforehand, so the view tracking still works and even has the proper timestamp for that.

That still tells the spammer you opened the email. I also doubt they do so for third party email accounts, which can also be used in the gmail app.

I mean, don't open the messages in the spam folder?

Suprisingly legit emails sometimes still go to spam. I recently had an actual message from Google go into spam and I didn't put it there.

The problem is that most clients are configured to allow it. So people send email that loads external resources. Now you need a degraded experience for privacy.

If most clients disabled remote resources then senders would include them in the message.


I don't know if I've used a client that doesn't let you turn this off.

Well, you do not have to allow images.

I pretty much don't.

Now and then I may allow one, depending.


Images can be base64 encoded into emails

They can be, but they aren't required to be. An email that contains all the resources to display itself doesn't leak user information. An email that contains a 1x1 tracking pixel, loaded when the receiver opens the email, lets the sender know that it has been received. In view of email spam, this is an unacceptable breach of privacy.

Configure your client to never load any external links unless you specifically select one for viewing.

Doesn't Gmail still proxy images so that this kind of tracking doesn't work? Or do they have a way around this?

Apparently they can't track IP and Device info but still can track when and how many times someone open.

Last info found googling was from 2013 though: https://blog.filippo.io/how-the-new-gmail-image-proxy-works-...


They do, but they still load images on-demand the first time you open an email.

So a spammer will know if and when you opened email; but they would not know your IP or user agent.

The former is usually the most important part, and it is not blocked at all.


Yeah that's a shame. I guess it would be too expensive for Google to load the images of every single email though it would kinda avoid this issue. But I can see why that isn't really a feasible option.

> I guess it would be too expensive for Google to load the images of every single email though it would kinda avoid this issue

Would it really? I have no idea what the dollar cost of that would be. I can see not wanting to pay for a feature most people wouldn't use, but I certainly think Google could afford it.

The biggest question would be what percent of pictures are loaded now and at what cost?


I know I get a lot of emails that I don't open all the time but still occasionally open. I am sure there are a lot of people in a similar boat. It's definitely a bit of a hard problem. I can see it being worth it for Google to implement into business accounts Gmail's, but not as economical for doing it on personal accounts.

It's also avoidable by just setting your email client to not load images by default. Not sure if gmail offers this, but I think it does.

Yeah haven't check if it's an option in Gmail but I am sure it is. Emails that get sent to spam however will not show images by default.

General settings : "Ask before displaying external images"

they could preload them only for people who have the "never show images by default" setting turned on

For security it’s recommended to use plain text email only. Inlined images are nice, but most everything else in html mail is unneeded. Email is the number one threat vector for companies.

Slack is great for quick messages. The error is to use one system for ephermal, immediate messages and not use another different one for longer message of less immediate nature. Email is great for the second. I have to have a folder of markdown files where I can draft messages to then post on slack, just because slacks own message editor can't be relied on not to post half my message.

Of course slack also can't handle markdown so my messages end up looking weird, but better weird than unreadable.

The upshot is that my messages end up impressing people because they are not just a garble of words, but have such features as headlines, paragraphs, lists and have been run through an actual spell checker.


> Many startups (e.g. Slack) aim to replace email

Whether or not this is an 'aim', chat (slack, texts) is a distinctly different medium than email, in the same way voice chat is.

Voice is synchronous, real-time communication. It's very immediate, but demands 100% attention while taking place.

Email is asynchronous, with an inherent delay from the slow workflow and turn-around time. It takes at least a few distinct actions to read and send a reply, and there's no indication if the person received your message or is replying (unless you're a sociopath that uses read receipts, anyway). You can of course reply quickly back and forth and get close to a synchronous medium, but it's at best awkward and just really doesn't work well for this.

Chat lives in the middle ground where it is kind of both: though it's really async, most platforms have an indicator of online/offline, typing, etc, and the friction to reply is very small, so it works well synchronous.

More importantly, in my mind, is the expectations that come with the medium.

Chat is casual, ephemeral, and has no expectation of response. After some minutes/hours/days (depending on context) a message goes stale and that's just how it is. It's also perfectly fine to reply "sorry, in a meeting until 2" or "not sure, maybe ask @otherperson?".

Email is more formal, long-lived has an expectation of a useful response. This turns your inbox into a todo list where all the items are added by other people as they see fit. The types of deferrals you can do in chat don't really work in email.

There's definitely disagreement on these, and that can cause a lot of friction between people that treat them differently (for example: people that use email as if it's chat drive me absolutely crazy -- let's just chat and finish this conversation in 1/2 the time, or have a voice call and finish it 1/10th the time!).


The BEST thing about slack is (was?) that nobody outside of your organization can message you.

Just create a whitelist in email if that’s what you want.

That doesn't work all that well in practice. I can probably trick your mail server into accepting spoofed mail. DKIM and SPF adoption being what it is.

How many times such mail actually comes?

Windows Phone had this too. You could mix timelines from Facebook and Twitter in one view. Messages from FB and SMS showed up in one list. I don't know how they got the licensing and API access to be able to do that, but it was great. Also they styled everything according to the phone UI, so everything was one font, dark mode was just one toggle, it always matched your phone theme, etc.

No issue with licensing, all of those services had extremely lax and open APIs, it wasn't until the last few years that they started shutting down nearly all access. There was a huge push for open APIs for over a decade and then they started taking it away under the guise of 'user safety' when really it was due to 'can't make more money' with it.

It's been almost a year since Twitter decided you had to have a browser capable of running some disturbingly bloated JS app just to view what is essentially a series of short text messages with the occasional image or video. I don't use Twitter but I'm linked there occasionally, and the insanity of that realisation still remains a clear example of what the industry has become.

I might be misremembering, but I’m pretty sure there was a short time when “Twitter Client” was to iOS dev tutorials what ToDo apps were to JS framework tutorials.

This was absolutely common. The simplicity and openness of the twitter api was one of the main things that draw me into programming. These days i dont even can have an account as they do not accept my phone number as valid...

Remember the good old days when “works with SMS” was a design constraint?

> It's been almost a year since Twitter decided you had to have a browser capable of running some disturbingly bloated JS app

It was mid-December of last year. So almost 6 months.


Crazy that’s what’s become of a tweet that started as an sms. The sms service appears dead too.

https://www.theverge.com/2020/4/27/21238131/twitter-sms-noti...


Too hard to display their ads if people access their content via API. I am not going to be surprised at all if reddit soon announces features leaving the API or completely getting rid of it.

Knowing Reddit, they won't announce it. It'll just slowly stop working until it's unceremoniously removed.

Sounds like the current old reddit site. They keep adding the new features pretty much only to the redesign and soon it'll just be the bloated redesign. They slowly make the old stuff more and more shit until you either have to suck it up and switch or suffer through bad UX.

Case in point: Reddit has a /u/backtickbot, whose whole job is finding comments containing code blocks that don't render properly in old.reddit.com and alternate Reddit clients, and responding with a (link to) fixed code block.

See for example:

https://old.reddit.com/r/Python/comments/n0qz5y/what_made_yo...


I feel like this would be a very easy change for Reddit Enhancement Suite (RES) to implement and have support for by default.

But this gets into my similar point where you end up having to use tools like an extension or bot to fix functionality reddit leaves out.

It's gotten pretty annoying for some things already. Old reddit doesn't support polls but in a weird way you can still see it from old reddit like an embedded piece of media.

Overall it's already feeling pretty hacky and I'm sure it's just going to keep getting worse. I've tried to switch to new reddit multiple times and it's just so much slower. I'll admit it "looks" better, but I still get the same functionality but in a more efficient manner on the old reddit. The new reddit just feels slow and bloated.


RIP FriendFeed. It was really the golden age of social media.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FriendFeed


> There was a huge push for open APIs for over a decade and then they started taking it away under the guise of 'user safety' when really it was due to 'can't make more money' with it.

Cambridge analytica is a well known issue of what happens when these platforms have open APIs as well.

Especially for Facebook it began to seem like a downside that created PR damage I think - people were far more interested in attacking it for “privacy violations” rather than celebrating the openness of the api and data.


> Cambridge analytica is a well known issue of what happens when these platforms have open APIs as well.

One doesn't have anything to do with the other. As a user, having an open API meant that I could choose which client to use to interface with FB messaging. This has no bearing on CA having access to user profiling data.


WP also did things well the other way - being able to separate work and personal life - in a way that is not possible in iOS or Android, even in Microsoft's own apps.

You could use Outlook for both work and home, create a different icons for each, and merge multiple personal or work accounts together. You could pause notifications based on calendars, or on certain days, or quickly pause them for several days.

On the other hand, Teams on Android just won't shut up, and the longest you can make notifications snooze for is 2 hours. You have to block them entirely to get peace.


>You could use Outlook for both work and home, create a different icons for each, and merge multiple personal or work accounts together. You could pause notifications based on calendars, or on certain days, or quickly pause them for several days.

Work Profiles added this behavior to Android recently also; with a quick toggle to disable Work Access completely. (Outlook, Teams, etc all sandboxed and separate from host-applications; seperate marked icons/etc)


The longest you can make notifications snooze by default is 2 hours. It is, of course, possible to change it. It also doesn't require root access, just ADB :)

https://www.xda-developers.com/customize-notification-snooze...


Honestly I'm shocked that nobody has embraced this.

Google obviously wants to do the Unix "lots of small tools" app composability thing, but that depends on having a strong shell.

The contact list should be a shell. Let me click a contact and see all my texts, hangouts, calls, etc. in one unified log, and initiate whatever communication protocol be it video-chat or chess from there.


I loved using Nokia Lumia phones, right until Microsoft bought the brand and immediately gave up. Now that was minimalist design done right.

This was my favorite feature of Windows phone. I thought it was innovative and was the first thing I thought about when I saw this article. On windows phone a person was a person. When you clicked on them you got information from every service tied to them. It was pretty cool.

Isn't the reason this can't/doesn't exist because everyone wants you in their own walled garden?

Unfortunately, yes. There used to be a time when Pidgin could be my client for everything. I could configure everything the way I wanted it to be, I could find everything in one place and I could rely on my own environment to ensure that messages could be automatically archived long-term. It was a utopia compared to what we have now.

This is why I no longer use "apps." Most of them are more concerned about "growth" than utility.

Bingo

Winner winner, chicken dinner!

Palm’s webOS did a unified inbox the best way. BlackBerry had a few implementations in the 2000s but the one this article refers to wasn’t really a true unified inbox, in part because the applet support for many of the services was weak (you had to go through weird protocols to send IM messages through BIS/BES whatever). The latter implementations with BlackBerry 10 were OK, but this was something Palm really nailed.

Had to scroll through almost 100 replies before seeing any mention of WebOS and it’s awesome unified mailbox. For the few fortunate to use it it was an amazing piece of tech. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to push WebOS into the mainstream. Palm was bought by HP who didn’t have much imagination and eventually sold WebOS and the IP for peanuts.

Still miss my old Palm Pre 2 for exactly this reason.

Blackberry had so much right.

All they had to do was keep focused on their actual demographic (high-end office workers), allow their other demographic (drug dealers / buyers), and let everyone else worry about consumers.

Always refine the keyboard, unquestionable notifications, ignore the “single pane of glass” trend, and definitely not even a single phone with Android.

Their user-base would be “small”, but so what. Noone needs 8 Billion users. 100M is plenty to sustain R&D.


Office workers would eventually want all-screen Android and/or iPhone for personal use, which forced companies to adopt those for office workers.

(edit: clarity)


Blackberry also started chasing “features” which took them away from reliability. Imo they made a big mistake by doing “what people want”

To use an old adage: If Henry Ford had asked people what they wanted, he would have given them a faster horse.


Yes, of course you must maintain reliability while competing.

But I think that analogy proves my point. If Blackberry asked people what they wanted before they saw iPhone, they'd say "better physical keyboard phone" (faster horse). But after the iPhone took off they pointed to that instead (wait.. cars are better).


You’re equating the BB keyboard with horses and the single pane of glass with cars, but I would argue against that quite a bit.

Single pane of glass is nice, and has benefits, but it’s a definite tradeoff as the on-screen keyboard is no longer tactile


Sadly phone companies cannot exist in a vacuum. In the book "Losing the Signal" there's great evidence that Blackberry faced far more pressure than merely losing market-share. Their push-based email service (the back end) previously existed as the only of its kind for phones, then Microsoft updated their version in 2006 so all other phones could have it. Blackberry lost a key differentiator.

Then there was Verizon pushing them to release phones that would work well on their new 4G networks, while Blackberrys were being optimised for 2.5G as one of their CEOs was determined to preserve the selling point of great battery life.

The companies they relied on were not letting them fall into a niche product-producer role. They would have been pushed out of the market, not even by their competitors, by their partners.


"Losing the Signal" sounds like an interesting read, so adding to my reading queue.

Thanks for mentioning it.


I never had a Blackberry but everyone I know who did says it was the best phone they ever had.

I loved my Blackberries, and hung on to the last one as long as possible. I think I had to give it up around 2012... but even within the Blackberries, there were differences. Some keyboards were better than other, or at least, suited me better.

Having said that, I am not sure they could have withstood the app revolution without participating in. I do think they made major mistakes in their strategy at critical points, but simply focusing on their core business demographic might not have been enough. The get corporate IT on board, IIRC, you had to run a Blackberry Enterprise Server (?) for security and corporate connectedness. This was not cheap. That was becoming increasingly problematic as the iPhone and Android infrastructures caught up security-wise. In the end the cost to maintain the Blackberry servers was no longer justifiable as many people wanted the shiny new phones with all the apps.


I agree with much of this, but consider this: If they had “weathered the storm” and kept on course while people were fascinated by the iPhone, by the time the fad faded a bit they would have had the best keyboard, the longest battery life, solid security, and corporations with unquestionable trust in the delivery of messages to employees.

You’re right about the BES requirement but they could have easily gone SAAS-optional when the industry shifted to the cloud.


I carried a BlackBerry for work for years and was an early tester of the iPhone for my employer. They issued the iPhone 4 to a few volunteers to test out with our email system etc.

I found it to be way better than the Blackberry. If they had forced me back to the BlackBerry I probably would have found a new job.

And, a huge number of colleagues who saw me using it at work got excited and put in requests for their own iPhones. It was just so much easier and more pleasant to read on the iPhone.


My only mildly successful mobile app was on Blackberry. It offered encrypted notes and was predominantly purchased by wall st traders and... users from Indonesia. The market for it was always a curiosity to me.

All they had to do was keep focused on their actual demographic (high-end office workers), allow their other demographic (drug dealers / buyers), and let everyone else worry about consumers

If they had opened up BBM, WhatsApp would never have happened.


Ooooo right! I had forgotten about BBM!

It was just at exactly the right point in history: it was better than the rest in some ways, had great FOMO, SMS was super expensive, and I don't think anyone else had real-time messaging on mobile when they first did.

Yes: I think they could have eaten the market until the iPhone, and Apple would have been playing catch-up to BB.


Google (Fi) had a little bit of this happening with SMS + Chat + voicemails all in "Hangouts".

Just recently, the've destroyed it and now SMS / voicemails are in "Messages", disconnected from chats.


And don't forget that all of that worked within Gmail. It floors me that Google didn't realize what they had when they had it. I used to manage all of my daily communications though one pinned tab that was always open. Heck, half the day, that tab would have its own dedicated computer monitor. Moving to a new service for email, messaging or SMS didn't even enter my mind because it would have been so inconvenient. But now, I'm happy to experiment, because it's all siloed anyway. As someone who has had Gmail since 2004 and a Google phone number since just after they bought Grand Central, there's a good chance I'll be using my own domain for email in a year.

I am with you. I had voicemail, SMS, "gchat" and email in one place. It was perfect. They pushed so hard for Orkut and especially Google+ when they had this magical combination that they never even marketed, you'd have to have stubmled on the configuration by accident. The entire time I was enjoying it I would explain it to the surprise of others.

It was also really nice when there was an iOS app named Talkatone that combined Google Voice calls, SMS, and voicemail into one. Circa 2012 that stopped working and Google rolled out separate Hangouts and Google Voice apps and nothing has been as good since.

In the meantime I became sickened by Google's ethics and behavior and have migrated all of those services to a combination of Fastmail and Anveo.


Agree.

Also, you could do the following things which Voice doesn't support:

- Have multiple chats open (and be working on several responses) at the same time

- Star chats (nice workflow for remembering to respond later)

Although there were a couple things which, annoyingly, never worked right:

- Receiving contacts (vcards) from iOS.

- Starting a new group text (more than one recipient) from within Gmail. You could respond to an existing group text but to start a new one, I had to do it from the hangouts app on my phone.


Yes, inside gmail if you wanted that. Alternatively, inside hangouts in a browser. The Hangouts app on Android was also a possibility. All synced, all showing the same chats/SMS side-by-side.

I had some very minor flakiness with receiving certain SMSs with Fi/Hangouts, and various anecdotes on the internet suggested not using it for SMSs as a solution. For me, that didn't make a difference, but it's like they've given up on whatever complexities there are around unifying, and going back to two lowest-common-denominator siloed applications.

Another part of it is probably that Hangouts / google chat is a channel (network) that they completely own, whereas SMS is a generic, third party protocol, and history tells us that XMPP, MSN/Yahoo Messenger integration, Facebook RSS feeds etc can't last because each company wants to be the sole owner of a walled garden, and not a slice of a larger pie.


One of the things I miss most about Google Talk (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Talk) was that messages would show up your GMail inbox.

Google's messaging app strategy is completely incomprehensible.

Side note: I love the succinct format on this link. Well written and to the point: 1 minute to read. You don't always have to create a blog post with unnecessary information just to post your opinion online. And sometimes a tweet just isn't enough.

Thanks buddy :)

It seems like if Apple created an actual app for Notification Center messages they could do this, or something close enough. The nature of temporary notifications is a pain point for me, and could be solved if I could go to such an app and see previously read notifications. And motivations are already centralized from every app / service.

My current setup is coming close.

I host a public Matrix instance that offers bridges to signal, Telegramm, whatsapp and instagram. This in Addition to tge Matrix native contacts, results in a single ui wäre all my messages arrive. I could als bridge E-Mail, but the combined inbox of k9 mail works good enough. Bonus that this works independant oft my phone.

I still miss my blackberry Bild from a Hardware perspective.


The answer to why this never happened again is simple. We live in an era where all tech companies or tech services, big or small, are antagonistic against each other.

Companies want your full attention and wallet. They don’t want to share you.

Monopolistic behavior seems to be a principle of modern tech. You either win everything or lose everything.


Monopolistic behavior seems to be a principle of the modern economy.

I really don't think I would like this feature. I like the compartmentalisation of different streams of work, different social groups etc.

My friends often complain about having different chat apps, but I quite like being able to see a single icon pop up on my lockscreen and having a fair idea who it's from.


Check out Beeper (not affiliated): https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25848278

Made by the founder of Pebble Smartwatch.

Beeper is a product founded on top of Matrix, which is a standard for interoperable, decentralized, secure communications. Think email, but E2E encrypted and modern. One of the core features is bridges - the ability to reach out into other communication silos and bring them into Matrix. https://matrix.org/docs/guides/introduction

No affiliation, but I'm quite excited about the Matrix ecosystem. Element is a great client already.


Cool!

> There’s literally nothing like that today, 15+ years later.

For those seeking a comparative app for todays platforms, here are some that were mentioned on HN.

https://missiveapp.com/

https://www.beeperhq.com/?hn


+1 for Missive. We've recently started using it at my work and it's been great.

Thank you!!

The Blackberry managed to be a unified inbox because it also unified UX.

Today everyone has to have their own UX, so the notion of, say, message _transports_ (which is what you had in, for instance, cross-protocol IM clients like Adium) is dead.

iMessage, Facebook, Whatsapp, Signal, etc. all have their own UX, and that is impossible to unify today.

Android _almost_ got that right as you could (theoretically) build unified front-ends to front for separate activities back in the early revisions (and I believe PalmOS nearly got there as well) but today every service wants to own the UX to shove their "experience" in your phone...


"We need to get our brand identity in your face. The ability to message people using our brand is just a necessary evil. Also, the data is lucrative so why not." - If companies were honest

Beeper seems to be doing a pretty decent job with a unified messenger. Though I don't think it does email (yet?)

BlackBerry Hub is still available and works great. Works with all of my apps, including Slack, Telegram, Teams, WhatsApp:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.blackberry...


Unfortunately it says: contains ads. Same as most if not all BlackBerry Hub apps/components I can find. Seems like it is now freemium garbage and not a product for professionals anymore, unfortunately.

There are no ads unless you don't pay after the first 30 days. The subscription is $1/month.

You still get the 'proper' Hub if you own a Blackberry KeyOne or Key2 phone...

...Both of which are now getting a bit long in the tooth, yet still commanding a lot of money on eBay :(


Doesn't the TOS for Twitter prevent this? It's all because each of these services want to present their own "experience". A unifying UI would screw their vision and light hose their revenue.

Yes, each separate service wants to show you ads, hence each service has its own app.

Apple and Google could require apps to make their data available to a unified UI. But that would merely improve user experience, not profits.

It would probably actually reduce profits, as apps like Twitter make their money by showing you ads. Even if the ads were part of the data stream, because they'd have to be labelled as such, they'd be trivial to filter out.

I was talking about Google's and Apple's profits.

I now that twitter limits the number of poeple that can use your client, but I don't know if this applies to notifications.


Isn't this basically phone notifications? You open the notification drawer and you see all of your messages.

There is maybe a slightly different implied ephemerality but at the end of the day they seem basically the same.



For pure email, nothing beats 2008 BlackBerry even today. Speed, reliability, consistency, even battery life.

It's a complicated history but the wilful ignorance by a lot of industry people and even fairly intelligent consumers was amazing to watch back in the day.

The iPhone is of course an amazing product, but the amount of distortion it wields is still unnerving


Absolutely. At least Blackberry Hub (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.blackberry...) was useful on Android yes ago, before the various issues. I just want one place for all my communication, and to search up all my communications, across all mediums for an individual.

CRM for humans.


I suppose it's in a way replaced by the notifications shade -- aggregates all messages. Let's be honest, most if not all notifs are from communication apps.

I do wish notifications were stored for all of time, searchable, and viewable from any device.

If you are on Android there are several apps that allow you to view your notification history like Unnotification[1]

You can search as well but it doesn't sync, so the "viewable from any device" bit is not possible. It also deletes notifications older than 3 days by default, though you can configure this.

I still find it very useful occasionally when I dismiss a message notification and then forget which app it was from.

[1] https://unnotification.en.uptodown.com/android


Thank you!

Why would you want a unified inbox?

That may have been fine when your Blackberry was issued by work and used 99% for work. Now I'm not sure what mixing my work emails/slack with the saturday evening hangout group chat on whatsapp would help with.

Tbh not even mixing work emails and slack would help, since we tend to use slack for the present and email more for passing long term goals/reference info.


It's great, instead of dots all over my screen which mean nothing or a disaster of a notification area. For example, BlackBerry Hub has 'views' so you can create a work view and personal, and select whatever you want. Handy, since I want to see WhatsApp for personal and work as some of my coworkers in Asia use it. Not pushing the software, but it was the only thing I could find anymore that didn't require that my email & data get copied into a 3rd party platform (work won't allow it, I don't want it). https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.blackberry...

Well, so then maybe you want a couple of unified inboxes - segregated by your personas rather than by service provider

Or maybe you don’t. There will never be a one-size-fits-all for these things which is one reason why walled gardens and full vertical integration are horrible.


I haven't used a BlackBerry but I think the reason that's possible is because BlackBerry has some kind of rich notification api where all the app can hook into it? or it's a pull based where the app has a local api where BlackBerry OS can pull the messge via local app and show in there.

Either way, I think to achieve this, we need an open platform. I'm not saying open source, but I think we have to have an easy way to access to our data. Can I curl gmail to get my email. nope. Can I curl facebook to get my message. nope. I like Telegram because I can literally just curl it to fetch my message.

I think about this a lot and apparently go and build my own email platform[1] which you can literally just do this:

curl https://api.hanami.run/v1/mails and get a nice JSON mail.

Once all the platform has an easy API like that, I imagined we will see many 3rd client to create a unification UI for all kind of content.

https://cancel.fm/ripcord/ is a client that unify slack+discord.

We're far from perfect but I think first steps for anyone building a chat service or an email platform is to have a very easy and user-friendly API to access their own data.

Similarly the https://matrix.org/ protocol is very promising and if enopugh people adopt that protocol we may have that dream come true, as long as anything speak that protocol, we can hook it up to our chat app.

---

https://hanami.run


Looks like you have some good features. I noticed some typos on your landing page, you should run it through a spellchecker. Diposable was the one that stood out to me, but there could be others if that slipped through.

Thanks!!

I found that I manage a lot of incoming messages directly from the notifications. That is about 80% I would say. For example I delete messages or mark them as read, or I can jump directly to the specific app to write an answer.

Does it count as a "unified inbox" of sort?

The issue I see is for my parents. They tend to get confused if they have multiple messaging options.


It's close... But not exactly what I want. For instance, can't multi select and take action on them. Can't sort. And of course once you dismiss (or tap accidentally) it's gone forever.

Same here, I abuse the notification system as some sort of unified inbox. Probably still dip into the actual apps most of the time.


I seem to remember PalmOS/WebOS doing a pretty decent job. My HP Touchpad had a "unified inbox" at least across mail services, although I don't remember if Texts/Tweets/Chats were in it as well.

I bought a Blackberry Classic back around 2015-2016. I only used it for a couple of months, but I really liked the unified inbox. Switching back to Android (and later iOS) felt like I was giving up a great feature

> And I have to ask – why not?!

Apple has a stranglehold on their ecosystem just like Blackberry did. They could easily require any new vendor to integrate into their own messaging app, or require apps to use a unified messaging framework which their app could pull from. They could kick out any app that didn't play by their rules.

The reasons for not doing this are almost assuredly either legal or business conflicts, or clinging to ideals like the screen wouldn't be as pretty. There is no technical hurdle.


Whilst I agree that email is the true universal standard I do not like how many mail providers and clients implement it badly. This then perpetuates issues with how people use it. I’m thinking things like to vs cc, reply all, etc. email etiquette, once gotten right is a great tool that helps both the sender and the receiver, without this email often has a lot of issues that can be frustrating to solve and lead to the rise in other tools (that are in themselves, silos).

I've used "Disa unified messenger" for years. I've stopped because I've changed which services I use and the app supports only a few.

Years later, I still greatly miss it.


Isn't this what Blloc Ratio is trying to acheive? (not affiliated) https://www.blloc.com/

Wow, this looks incredible. Has anyone done an analysis of its security/data privacy issues you might expose yourself to by using this?

I'm very skeptical of something that is basically reading data from every app I have. I'd worry that this provides a single weak point that can be compromised (obviously a bad update could just scrape all your data, but also presumably it'd open up more surface area to vulnerabilities?)

If it is secure enough to trust with my personal data, that'd be a wonderful solution to my current jumble of apps!


I have bought a device from them (Z18 which comes with their own Android flavor and the ratio launcher) and my personal experience wasn't very good: updaters that don't work, their community support board that is not very active, I had to download and flash a ROM from a dubious website using some obscure Mediatek tool just to get a recent version up and running.

It was a bad purchase and it doesn't inspire much confidence about their other products.

I have spent several days over the last year or so to try and get an alternative open source Android distribution on it but no success yet. I wish I could install LineageOS on it so I can at least have a functional device.


At the bottom of the front page:

> No cloud processing, no 3rd party services, no compromises. Ratio computes everything on your phone.


That's basically a pinky-swear guarantee of privacy. Unless it's auditable, we only have their word to go by.

This website is almost world-shakingly irritating and after scrolling through it I'm still not exactly sure what it's supposed to be. Do you know?

Not the parent, but it seems like a "unified inbox" for messaging linked together with a bunch of digital minimalism features. I'd go for that quite eagerly, but I'm concerned about handing over my digital life to a third-pary app that's not open source.

I've briefly tested it, it seems nice. Other than that I have the same concerns.

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