Tuesday, February 02, 2010

"A good email client, please."

My friend Patrick Collison writes on Facebook:

"Gmail proved that, despite the apparently high switching costs, a new webmail client can quickly get a lot of traction. There’s room now to do to Gmail what Gmail did to everything else. The replacement should have some concept of workflow (”archive, but remind me to respond tomorrow”, “send, and alert me if I don’t get a response within a few days”), some concept of teams and colleagues (allow threads to be shared as a first-class object, rather than flailing around with forwards and CC lines), be some way smart about mining the semi-structured mails going through the system (flight booking emails should be automatically annotated with .ics files), know something about prioritization (I like Twitter DMs because of the assumption that they’ll go to a mobile device. If I’ve sent more than 20 emails to someone, they should have the option of copying their mail to me as an SMS).

Potentially most powerfully of all, developers should be able create their own plug-ins that run on the server. There should be an agreement between plug-in developers and the webmail provider that creating a plug-in automatically grants a royalty-free perpetual irrevocable worldwide (etc.) license to the provider, and that the source code to any plug-in may be merged into the main product. Though plug-ins have niche appeal, this could be a good source of new features, and a strong competitive advantage. I’d just fix Gmail if I could.

I’d happily pay for any service that got this stuff right."

Some good ideas in here. Server plug-ins could work in a manner similar to Google App Engine. A lot has been tried around better triage and data mining, with no clear winners yet. Also, there's a danger of feature overload somewhere in here. I'm not sure if we should replace one variant of feature overload (Microsoft Outlook) with another (integrated SMS / Twitter / Facebook / email). Maybe SMS, Twitter, Facebook, and email should instead all just be replaced with one thing that is the combination of all lessons learned with those protocols.

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