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The future of email
11 points by amolsarva 795 days ago | comments
The last company I started was an email startup -- Peek, we made a mobile email gadget that won all kinds of awards from Time and Wired and everyone (www.peek.ly). The company became a software platform and was just acquired by our top customer.

So now I'm thinking about new stuff and noticing there is tons of innovation in email.

What do folks think? Agree/disagree with the following statements that everyone keeps repeating?

- Email overload/inboxes are broken

- Gmail is the winner. All other webmail is fail

- A better interface to email than Gmail is out there

- The best mail app for mobile is... Apple's Mail? Sparrow? Gmail for iOS?

- Tasks are crowding inboxes

- Commercial/deal mail needs to be in its own place (e.g., AOL's AltoMail and Microsoft's Hotmail experiment in 2011)

Some background posts about these topics with examples

http://a.sarva.co/2012/12/how-email-is-like-craigslist/

http://a.sarva.co/2012/12/reading-paul-graham-on-the-re-invention-of-email/




Yup, I certainly remember those Peek devices from back in the day! I've also been working on a little something in the email space and so I've kept my eyes peeled at the influx of "email reinvented" apps in the past months.

I don't have strong opinions on all of your statements; it really depends on the person. My core belief, however, is that email is broken on the front-end. Sure it'd be nice if we threw out all the legacy of email protocol, but that won't happen without some titanic effort, so for now we'll fix everything we can on the user side of things.

In addition to the email apps that have popped up on HN, I trawled through Dribbble at one time to see who all is working on what. A lot of it are pretty interface elements on the same old concept, but a few are real, active projects with potential:

http://dribbble.com/ndrw/buckets/92665-Designer-Mail-Apps

Also, AOL Alto is doing lots of things right:

http://designtox.tumblr.com/tagged/aol

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What's your interest in email by the way? You seem to have some sophisticated views (or at least background) on the topic!

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Yes AOL AltoMail is interesting indeed!

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I think email is overwhelming for most high-communication people, but also that most people are kind of stuck with it, and there's a lot of friction in switching between platforms. Gmail is certainly the default platform at the moment, but not because better ones don't exist.

Trying to build a better email seems tough. Unified inbox is kind of interesting. Gmail as a platform is very interesting -- I've been using apps like StreakCRM and find them very compelling vs. standalone apps.

Lighter weight and social messaging (facebook, sms, whatsapp, snapchat, etc) seem to be making an impact on messaging, particularly for younger folks, and i bet cannibalize email, both in terms of volume and time spent.

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Email is broken because people implement it poorly. I don't mean developers, but users: e.g. "Important: Everyone must read" as subject line from the president of the R/C Boat Enthusiasts Club of Milwaukee or cc2cya syndrome in an office.

Gmail isn't the winner. It's as dumb as box of rocks, then again so is every other email solution.

SMS is the best mobile app. Or at least it hints at what the best would be. Most emails aren't worth filing. Most subject lines are bad. SMS deals with both of these issues by ignoring them.

The solution to email is in AI [I'm waving may hands in a magic gesture]. The email problem is that we have to do something with each one...except what goes directly to "Junk" and the success of that approach hints at what an ideal email client would do.

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I don't think it's fair to blame the users. Our software products are smarter than them. Surely we can win.

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I'm probably a special case, but I am not a fan of gmail, it just doesn't work for me. Too many false spam positives, not enough tuning available to work around brokenness. I run my own email, it works great, less experienced dataloss and much less data leakage as well. I find email on mobile tedious, it doesn't work for me and especially on touchscreens. Fix that problem and you might have something.

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Yes, there seems to be more and more about email these days, but it seems like everyone is just putting a different interface on something that is not working as they want. I created a little mock-up of what I want out of email - just my 2 cents.

http://squarerfish.tumblr.com/

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Sounds similar: I would like to see things other than emails live within my email inbox.

You click on a "subject line" in your gmail table view, and it opens up a to-do list, or a wiki, or a spreadsheet, or a regular old email.

Not an email "notification" that links me to a spreadsheet, but the actual spreadsheet itself.

I originally thought this was what Google Wave intended to be. You could send a regular email OR a "wave" and both would appear in your gmail inbox. It unfortunately ended up being more of a second inbox, with gmail notifications.

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Hmm! Yeah really cool and interesting. The core concept of "handle the apps that create all the mail workflow" is definitely a promising one

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