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Mon, 19 Sep 2005
Model-View separation and Web mail

It's old news that Yahoo is beta testing the latest incarnation of their web mail service. It sounds like there are going to be signficant improvements to the user interface, even when compared with Gmail. I have a Gmail account, but I don't use it much because even the though the UI is good for a web client, it's not good enough, and of course, there's the problem of disconnected operation.

After the news of the Yahoo beta, I was glad that I haven't dumped all my mail into Gmail. If I had done that, all my mail would be in jail, and I wouldn't be able to use the new improved Yahoo user interface on the mail that I had sent to Gmail. What's worse, if I decided that I liked the Yahoo interface better, I would need to tell people to send mail to my Yahoo account instead of my GMail account. Nevermind that all this is true in the reverse direction.

At home, I run my own e-mail, so I have IMAP. The pretty much means that I can choose the client whose interface I like best, without changing my e-mail address, and with a decent chance of having all my old e-mail show up in the new client.

Just when we finally achieved "model-view separation" for e-mail (IMAP and IMAP clients), the webmail world smashed those things back together. If Gmail and Yahoo start a competition around innovations in e-mail client features -- something we're desperately in need of -- it reduces my ability to get the features I want because my mail data, my mail address, and the user interface for mail are not just bundled together, they're welded together.

I'm definitely not excited.

[22:38] | [computers/internet] | # | TB | F | G | 9 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post

Coming to this party late in the day, but that's how web search works...

I suggest if you run your own IMAP server (as I do - I also have hosted IMAP elsewehre) you also run your own webmail server (as I do).  Mine is not great, it came with my Merak mail server, but its good enough and follows me everywhere I have problems with port blocking. 

Also there are many open source initiatives to produce good webmail - instead of looking to big corps to duke it out over our email we should look at independent solutions - the Firefox or Apache of webmail solutions.  Unfortunately most people (i.e. the bulk of webmail users) are no savvy enough to distinguish mail hosting/IMAP from their webmail and lets face it, I don't see anyone offering free IMAP with a few gigs of permanent storage unless they also try to tie you into their webmail service for advertising purposes.  Which is why I have to run my own server or use my paid for IMAP.

I've seen webmail work well with mobility in the case of Hotmail and Outlook clients because Outlook can sync well with their webmail interface, including folders even though its only using POP (it syncs via an HTTP protocol!).  Apart from that webmail and POP general sucks IMHO and doesn't help many small business users at all.  They end up with all their email in the wrong place most of the time, either on the web when they are not connected, or on their laptop when they don't have power or don't have their laptop (or its gets lost!).
Posted by
Simon Waddington at Thu Mar 9 10:25:01 2006

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