My post last week on email clients being largely unchanged since the beginning of email itself spurred a lot of discussion in my own email inbox. I wanted to publicly address a couple of these…
Many people have emailed me to ask if I have heard of either .Mail or Mail Pilot. I have and, while both projects agree with me on the lack of innovation in email clients and I support their willingness to take a stab at doing so, they still do not fit what I would call true innovation.
First example of where these two fall down for me before even becoming real shipping products… Take a look at the (poorly and hastily drawn) picture above. On the left is the interface of every email client before 2005. On the right, is the interface to every email client I know of today. Sure, the chrome or the buttons or the color of the folders in that left hand pane (and that folder pane seems to always be on the left hand) may be different. But, mostly, they all look like this. .Mail and Mail Pilot are no different.
Second example… They both seem to define innovation as turning email into a better task list. The last thing I need is another task list. Take one look at the App Stores and you will find plenty of task lists. Why would I need my email inbox to be yet another one. What I need, is a better email client that is focused on treating email like email, not like tasks.
So, no, I don’t think there is the kind of innovation I would like to see or that I have been prototyping in my mind.
Next, many people pointed out (great example here) that I could use a program like Drafts to at least be able to compose in the order I proposed in my post. And, while this is true, this is a stopgap measure at best and a hack at worst. It still does not meet the true spirit of what I was proposing which is…
A whole cloth re-think of email that is focused, purpose driven, and action oriented. Let’s take everything we know about email clients and forget it. Forget those square boxes above as well. Pretend you have never seen an email client before. How are we ever going to build the future when we start by drawing the dull lines of the past?
I’m not saying any of these things are easy. It is (obviously) really, really, hard to divorce oneself from 20+ years of re-enforsement and habit. I certainly don’t have my ideas completely fleshed out. What I do know is that the picture in my head looks nothing like those boxes above and behaves like no email client I’m aware of.