Sparrow Flies The Coop


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.

A wonderfully exhaustive review of the just-released Sparrow for iPhone by Federico Viticci. 

I’ve been testing out the app for a while now, and it’s pure gold. As you’re all well aware, I despise email, but Sparrow at least makes it look good and behave well. If you want a good laugh, look at Sparrow side-by-side with Google’s native Gmail app.

The only real downside of the app is the lack of Push Notifications. But they’re honest about why: it’s hard to do it in a secure way. Really hard. Meanwhile, Apple hasn’t yet dished out APIs for the type of background sniffing that would be needed to get this to work without routing every email through Sparrow’s own servers. 

But the team is hopeful that this will change eventually. For now, you’ll just have to settle for a great-looking email app.