#email

Over the past several months, by far the number one question I’ve gotten asked is if I can get people access to Mailbox and/or when is it coming out…

Well, the answer is really soon now. Today, the team rolled out a smart reservation system to make sure they can gracefully launch the service to the hundreds of thousands — perhaps millions — who are undoubtedly going to want it ASAP.

Unfortunately, this system means that some will have to wait longer than others. But at least there will be some transparency in the process: with Mailbox’s reservation system, you’ll be able to see exactly where you are in line to get the app — both the number of people in front of you and behind you.

Once again, trust me, it will be worth the wait. And yes, the app will be free.

courtenaybird

So we know that the average worker spends 13 hours a week — 28 percent of office time — on email. Which multiplies out to (eek) 650 hours a year.

But what does that time investment look like as physical — well, “physical” — output? How does it amass as words typed and sent and otherwise generated? Here’s one estimate: 41,638 words.

To put those 41,638 discrete pieces of communication in perspective, that word count, in the aggregate, is roughly equivalent to a novel that is 166 pages in length…. slightly greater than The Old Man and the Sea (127 pages long), slightly less than The Great Gatsby (182 pages), and just about equal to The Turn of the Screw (165 pages).

So many wasted words.

Abdel Ibrahim of The Tech Block interviews Gentry Underwood of Mailbox:

No technology ever dies completely, so in some senses it’s easy to promise that email will stick around. But more to the point, email is a “we” technology. You or I don’t decide to use it – “we” do. You may attempt to quit checking email, but you’ll still be receiving them. Sooner or later you’ll likely cave in and start checking it again (perhaps after one-too-many missed invitations, etc.). If we’re going to stop using email we’re going to have to all decide to do that at the same time, and that’s a big, big thing to ask.

I really cannot wait to see what happens when everyone starts using Mailbox in a few weeks. It has changed my work life dramatically for the better. It’s a true revelation.

Back in August, I wrote a post teasing Mailbox, the new app from the team behind Orchestra. Today, they’re ready to reveal a bit more. The video above offers a taste, but I’ll have more thoughts to share later on.

Put simply: this is the most excited I’ve been about an app in a long time. I’ve been testing it out for a few weeks now and it’s already the app I use most often. I say this, of course, as a happy investor, but I shit you not: if you hate email, you’re going to love this app when it comes out in a few weeks. It’s fucking amazing.

Nice(r). I’d still love to see an option for no subject — just who you’re sending it and what you’re sending. Or maybe even no body and just a subject line, actually. Reduce the clicks/tabs.

We’re getting closer to the “Gmail Lite" that I’ve long dreamed about. But Gmail is still nowhere near fast enough. I’m not sure it ever will be unless they do a native app. I do almost all my email now on the iPad.

Is email really 30 years old? Nope. It’s more like 47 years old. Technology historian Thomas Haigh sets the record state in an email to David Pogue:

Email, or electronic mail, is actually at least 40 years old, and the NY Times itself has documented its use in 1965 (47 years ago). Hence, collecting endorsements for the “30 year anniversary” claim, i.e. 1982 as the origin date for email, is an key strategy for Ayyadurai.

47 years old. This is a channel we all still use to communicate.

Interesting post by Y Combinator partner Harj Taggar. Rather than fully quitting email, he simply removed it from his phone. This meant he could *only* check it when he was at a computer — you know, like the old days. 

I’m pretty much the opposite these days — I enjoy checking and responding to it much more on my mobile devices instead of the desktop web because Gmail on the web is so much slower in every regard (the only real plus — and it’s a big one — in my mind is search). 

Still, this is a pretty smart and simple hack to reclaim your day and your sanity. Sadly, I just don’t believe I can live in that mildly disconnected world. I have other plans.

This is the teaser page for Mailbox, a new product by the Orchestra team. I can’t say too much yet, but I’ve seen what they’re up to (we are investors, after all). It’s potentially game changing when it comes to email. And those who follow my email saga closely will know that I would not say that lightly. 

They have a bit more about the process of evolving from Orchestra to Mailbox here. The best excerpt:

At first the idea seemed crazy. Email felt like this massive thing that startups don’t mess with. “This path is paved with corpses,” one friend told us. To be really blunt, we were scared. But as we explored the idea and the capacity of our team to tackle it, we felt emboldened. We realized we could apply everything we had learned about building fast, friendly, mobile collaboration tools to the inbox. We can’t replace email, but we can change how we interact with it.

Bingo. It’s not about replacing email. That has been tried and tried and tried and failed and failed and failed. It’s about changing the way we perceive email. 

Mailbox is not quite done yet, but it will be worth the wait. Trust me.

Sparrow Flies The Coop

Bittersweet

I first wrote about Sparrow in October 2010, gushing about the native Gmail experience it offered to Mac users. And I continued closely tracking its progression as both an interested writer, but also as a dedicated user. It was the first app that truly made Gmail beautiful on a Mac (and more recently, on iOS). 

Along the way, I got to know founder Dom Leca a bit, so I’m very excited for him and his team today. There is no question that they will be able to tackle email problems on a whole new scale within Google, and I sincerely hope they do. We all need them to.

On the other hand, it sucks that development of Sparrow itself is stopping (though it will continue to be offered an supported). Thank god they got that Retina version out just in time for the new MacBook Pros. I use Sparrow on a daily basis to pound through email at a speed that Gmail on the web simply cannot handle.

That’s the thing: while Sparrow was beautiful and offered useful features like Facebook graph integration, it really moved things forward in terms of the UX of email. It’s a very hard problem because there are protocols and norms that have existed for decades that you have to work with. But Sparrow abstracted a lot of that and made it wonderful to do something as simple as reply with one click. 

But at least Google seems well aware about Sparrow’s passionate user base and is thinking about why they were successful. Unprompted, they sent me the following statement this morning: “The Sparrow team has always put their users first by focusing on building a seamlessly simple and intuitive interface for their email client. We look forward to bringing them aboard the Gmail team, where they’ll be working on new projects.”

Congrats Dom, the Sparrow team, and Google. Now go fix email.