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Sparrow for Windows was just a few weeks away (everydaypanos.com)
215 points by ehamberg on July 21, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 68 comments

Something doesn't make sense. From the ambiguity of your description, it sounds as though you own the code, and that you had no formal business relationship with Sparrow, and that you accepted no money from Sparrow (it is really strange that Sparrow would even encourage you into such a position, and that you would put yourself there --- you left them in the situation where they could turn your work down, and develop their own Windows client). If that is all true, then the code is yours, and you can turn it into a Sparrow replacement. But you are giving off a sense of finality, as if what you wrote is useless. This confuses me. Think like an entrepreneur, not an employee. If you have roadblocks to selling the e-mail client yourself, overcome them (e.g., if you are worried about UI copyright, then change your UI, and then sell it). Once you earn money from it, move to writing a Mac version, an iOS version, etc.

Apparently, according to the verge, a windows client was not weeks away. http://www.theverge.com/2012/7/21/3174803/sparrow-for-window...

I don't understand this either. Why would someone that didn't work for the company and wasn't being paid be writing code for the company? It all sounds really strange to me.

I think it's safe to say at this point, that this entire story is bollocks. The guy has posted a few comments here, but never to actually provide any information of substance.

I do not believe this was officially supported by the Sparrow team as he make it seems...

The truth is the Sparrow team is a Mac only team. They didn't care much for Windows. If at all. To test the Windows builds, Din Viet used a virtual machine running inside OS X..

Yeah but where did you come in? Why you? Why were you working on a product that you had nothing to do with?

I just don't get it at all. Why did you give free labour and free time to a for profit company you had no stake in? See why we are confused?

Source code, or it didn't happen.

Open-source it. If they're really abandoning the product but actually care about improving the status of e-mail clients they won't send you a C&D.

If they don't care about that as much as they care about preventing unauthorized use of their code, then everyone loses. But you can't know what'll happen unless you take action.

Some parts already are Open Sourced. Mainly helper libs tho ( https://github.com/everydaypanos/Peacock ).

Agreed! Maybe it can take a life on it's own. No use shedding tears over what's done, but open sourcing it would at least mean there is a net gain for the world from it all.

They were bought by Google, why would Google do that..?

I don't know but it wouldn't be unprecedented. For example, Google open-sourced etherpad when they bought the company (mainly for the talent rather than the product).

They did it with reMail (http://www.remail.com/), too.

Did not know that, +1 for google

Who owns this code ? Where you paid to develop this code ? If the OP was paid, his code belongs to google. In anycase a copyright will most likely apply to the user interface if it is a copycat of the Mac sparrow app.

If the OP manage to change it and eventually simplify it to make it significntly different, than the copyright won't hold and you own it as the author. The OP may then create his own brand. He should create his own app if the code doesn't belong to goggle.

I would suggest to make it a payed app, twice the price than Sparrow, and use the earned money to develop android, iOS and iMac version. If google offer to hire him, then request that the code is open source. Maybe Microsoft will have an offer to make too.

Of course Panos could also provide the app for free but he needs to earn a fair money for his work and for a living if we want him to continue and sustain the brand. Maybe another company could make an offer like Canonical for instance.

> If the OP was paid, his code belongs to google.

That's wrong. Whether or not the OP was paid, his code belongs to him, unless one of these two things are true: first, if there was a contract that transferred copyright; second, if the OP was supervised in an employee-like role (work-for-hire).

That's how it is in the U.S. at least, and I believe France is a part of the Berne Convention, so it should be the same or similar there.

Before doing anything, I think that you should talk to a lawyer because there are a lot of questions to be answered.

Who owns the code? Are you free to open-source it or rebrand it? Did you have any kind of contract?What about your employment situation? Did your meetings with Sparrow's staff, and them sharing artwork, constituted some kind of licensing, agreement or anything? Did Google know about your project?

I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know any of the answers. Does anyone know what would happen if they claim that they own the code? Maybe they would have to recognize him as an employee, or a contractor and then pay him for his work. If they allow him to use the code as he pleases, the fact of the company encouraging him to develop the port, and even meeting and sharing some artwork, would it mean that they granted him an implicit licence?

Either way, probably Google's legal team has some work to do.

Not to sound harsh, but what's described here sounds totally believable. Someone who loved Sparrow on Mac wanted to bring it to Windows. He got the blessings of the developer to do it, was even lucky enough to have a few meetings with them.

But none of that implies any sort of formal relationship or gives any reason why the Sparrow team (or Google) should have any sort of responsibility toward him.

It sucks he got burned, but I honestly don't think he has anyone to blame but himself. If you're going to do so much work, either make sure you own the work (and can sell it yourself if the company no longer wants it) or have some legal agreement in place that you get paid for it. Don't leave yourself in a situation where the other person changes their mind and you've got no recourse to recoup your loses.

Corollary: I absolutely hate it when media outlets use the term "a source". Yes, I do understand that sometimes 'source' is used because the other party requested or requires anonymity for the continuity of their current endeavors or whatever other reason.

But with the current state of news delivery operating at Warp 10 with the added bonus of somehow being able to run a hyperdrive engine at the same time and less research actively being done before a story is thoroughly debunked, it irks me.

I think it's especially silly in the case of a "source" from a really small startup.

This isn't like a "source" at Proctor and Gamble, it's what, like one of five people?

Or their friends, or people they spoke to at a party or conference. And so on.

I suppose.

So a person contacts the article author and says "I spoke with them at a party or conference, and they denied knowing anything about a Windows client."

That's a credible source? Of course not.

Credibility isn't binary. What's credible for one news organization says nothing about what another organization/journalist/court-of-law-in-the-UK believes is credible.

There are many more ways to establish credibility - does your story add up, do you know things you wouldn't without having inside info, can the journalist verify that info with a known insider, have you been a credible source in the past, are you personally known to the journalist, are you a known person in the community, do you have a proven connection to the primary source, etc.

If this would ever have been released, it would have failed and die a painful death. As stated by the author, he "stole" (which means he faked) many UI elements from OSX because he "dislikes Metro". This is just wrong and bad practice when developing native applications. A UI designer should never design a UI for an OS which he/she dislikes to begin with, it will just end badly.

What makes Sparrow on OSX and iOS so good is that it stays true to its OS; that it feels native and blends into the OS with such grace that it's a thrill to work with. In contrast, web apps doesn't suffer much from this since users are used to them looking different, as long as they exist inside their browser environment. But for Sparrow to be successful on Windows, these rules would apply...

Since hearing that Thunderbird is going to start collecting dust, I've been looking for a decent Windows client and was wishing Sparrow worked on Windows. So this makes me even more sad. I wish Google would do the right thing and open-source it like they did with Etherpad.

Comms (www.comms.io) is my project, it's a lightweight IMAP client for which Windows is the initial platform. The alpha is a few weeks off.

Just a heads up, 'comms.io' (without the www.) sends you to a bluehost landing page.

Got the exact same problem. Actually using Windows Live Mail right now. Really hoping Panos finishes it and releases it!

I've been using Postbox, and I couldn't be happier with it.

Postbox was my next solution. Is it better than Thunderbird?

I've been somewhat happy with Thunderbird actually, in terms of performance and stability. It's just that the whole codebase seems unwieldy (try developing extensions for it) and may not be around a lot longer.

I bought Postbox and really like it. They've based it on Thunderbird 2 which is the version I like--3 made some UI changes I don't prefer. By continuing to update 2's code, I get an up-to-date e-mail client that acts how I want. Plus, with a couple of settings tweaks, it can look just like Sparrow, it's available for Mac AND Windows, it supports Gmail's tags (I don't use Gmail so I can't check that), and even does the social network integration. It's also the same price as Sparrow (actually, 4 cents cheaper) at USD$9.95.

side question : how can I make my postbox looks like sparrow ? is there plugins to install ? thank you :)

I set the layout to Vertical View, sorted incoming e-mails "newest at top," and collapsed the folder pane on the left.

> I know that Europe cannot really maintain a talented team like the one Dom and Dinh Viet would need to take Sparrow to new heights.

Really? All of Europe can't provide a team for an e-mail client?

Google disagrees. The author should really check out the work done by their office in Zurich, which also works on GMail.

Yeah, I thought that was weird, too. If he "knows" that, I have to wonder what else he "knows".

As a European, I feel insulted and pity his display of ignorance and arrogance.

What are you left with, Panos? Their source code you can't use anymore, and your code which is now worthless? You're left with nothing, in other words? You are not just going to accept this, right? Do something! :)


The IP situation is interesting. Was there any code re-use? Does the code you wrote belong to Sparrow? If the answer is "no" to both, you may be able to release it.

No code was reused. Just Jean-Marc's artwork. Plan was to port LibEtPan in Windows and replace current email engine during Beta, but.. you know.. dead.

Why is it dead. The Sparrow team won't work on it any more... but they weren't going to work on the Windows version anyway. If you were writing it, why not keep doing so?

Obviously you might have to change the artwork, since that belongs to google now. Otherwise, it sounds like this is just an email client that YOU wrote.

Why wouldn't you start with libetpan? It has been available for years, and it's well known Sparrow used it. This story smells fishier by the moment.

sound unlikely, a proper sparrow port would use the etpan lib (there are windows port apparently), instead of starting the email protocol almost from scratch as the author suggest.

dude. kickstarter. go.

Sparrow is one of the few reasons I stick with using a mac, and am somewhat fearful of taking another job using windows again. I even tried having outlook configured in a mode to look more sparrow-ish to realize it didn't work without a real "sparrow" experience.

Dude is in Greece, so no Kickstarter for dude.

Indiegogo then. It's still a good idea.

I imagine there will be something similar coming from Google in the future..

Google is ultimately in the advertising business. They want people surfing to the Gmail homepage so they can show ads.

I've dreamed of Sparrow for Windows for a while now, but Postbox is holding me over. It's a good alternative -- it has a traditional, but sexy user interface.

My hunch is Sparrow's offered a compelling enough user experience to be a rival to gmail's UI, by being the primary point of use for Business and Personal customers, they were not being exposed to Google's revenue points (AdSense and cookie/re-targeting technologies).

I have heard from some reliable sources that Microsoft is quite happy to pay for design+development of applications that are built for their new devices (wp7/8). Perhaps you could reach out to them and see if they would acquire your work. It's not the best free market alternative, but it might get your product to live and prosper. Imagine, if Sparrow (Microsoft eMail Light) gets included in every new tablet? Sure, they've got Outlook, but maybe users would dig a lighter (simpler) new alternative?

I get what the OP is hassled about. He committed time and energy on developing a product, time and energy he wasn't paid for, but it didn't matter because he believed in the product. He was going to prove that Windows apps could look good, and he was tieing it into an existing, loved brand. In other words, he was doing good, for people who appreciated it. That was enough for him.

However, since it's been bought out by Google, he's lost all the passion for the application. It's just going to get swallowed up by the shark, and no-one really cares. So, what is the point of releasing an awesome version for it?

Obviously, he's got plenty of options at this time. But, the motivation, the passion, the brand recognition, the love, it's all disappeared. Take the magic out of the cauldron and you're just left with boiled, icky bits.

I don't know enough about the application, or the platform, etc, but open-source it, and make it a client that can connect to multiple platforms. Sounds good?

Suggestion for you: help out on this other e-mail client that exists asopen source and is desperate in need of some patching: https://github.com/waseems/inbox2_desktop :-)) (disclaimer: I am the original author of inbox2)

I wouldn't be surprised at all if an impending Windows client was part of the timing for this deal. A resurgence of people using stand alone clients on PCs that don't display ads could have been a big problem for Google's business model. If users really demand stand-alone clients I think Google could reverse course and re-release Sparrow with ad support in the near future. I like Sparrow but it's nothing so special that it cannot be easily cloned. Google won't be able to just take that option off the table unless they want to find ways to lock-out third party clients from utilizing extended GMail functionality.

Isn't all software, always, just a few weeks away? lol.

    It kind of seems like the ‘new GMail’ that ought 
    to be native for all devices(the trend is clearly for
    that), was galloped by it’s bigger competitor.
    In fact [GMail] may get even worse since 
    it’s inception was a mighty web app for email.
No dude, GMail is first and foremost an email service. What GMail provides is so much bigger than anything a "native" email client can ever accomplish.

I see this mentality coming from developers all the time, but you're really not seeing the forest from the trees.

I also watched the YouTube videos showing the interface in action. This client might actually be great, however I couldn't see anything there to blow me away, just some icons with no labels and I hate icons with no labels (the first thing I did in GMail's new interface was to search for the option that restores labeled buttons).

"Another feeling is the Google effect: I know that Europe cannot really maintain a talented team like the one Dom and Dinh Viet would need to take Sparrow to new heights. "

Is this a serious remark (honest question)?

Release it in the wild!

this is very sad... google acts like a giant black-howl they are prepared to take on any rival startup take their ideas and on most cases throw them in the bin! παρόλ' αυτα μπράβο Πάνο!

So Google bought Sparrow so that they would never release this?

Wow, that Windows version was certainly ugly. Why have Windows applications always to suck design wise?

I think you are confusing user interface design with user experience (UX). A text-book UI should be intuitive and easy to use, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will be aesthetically pleasing to everyone. I work with UX, and one of the biggest challeges i face is to find a good balance between functionality and aesthetics; what will give the general user base the best possible experience.

But you have to realize that it is impossible to satisfy everyone, especially when looking at OSX-users and Windows-users, who have such different tastes and demands. Then its probably better to have two different UIs that can bring a great (but not necessarily the same) user experience to two very different crowds.

> I think you are confusing user interface design with user experience (UX)

That's just an excuse for people to make ugly UIs. Aesthetics is an integral part of usability. A UX designer who has no clue about aesthetics is worthless.

What's aesthetically pleasing to a OSX-user might be something totally different to a Windows-user. A UX designer who doesn't know that, is worthless as well ;)

The more heavily I rely on a good tool, the less attention I need pay it. E.g., Emacs is quite ugly but that only makes it harder to learn, not harder to use.

Windows has more functional and consistent interface standards than any other platform. It's predictable and utilitarian...in other words, the exact opposite of OS X and "the web".

In Windows, keyboard acceleration is a first class citizen too and it works better than on any other platform.

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