Yo, whattup g!(mail)

June 29 2004

Well, it seems like one of the things to do last week while I was away was write reviews or comments (Joe, Ben, John, John, Andrew, etc.) of Google's new gmail service.  I had planned to write one before leaving, but just didn't get there.  So, here we are now -- just throwing my 0.074 Ringgit in atop the other reviews.  (oops, looks like I had hit "save" here before I had finished!...anyway, here's the rest...)
I've been playing with gmail for a few weeks now, and was able to give it a real test last week while travelling on lower bandwidth connections in Asia.  It's clearly still beta, but so far, I'm impressed with what they've done to a webmail interface.  Specific features and capabilities that I think are cool --

  • The conversation interface that threads replies together -- shades of some of the remail work that IBM has been doing.
  • The single click reply function... click in the reply box and you are instantly in edit mode atop a quoted reply message.
  • The visual indication if the message was addressed just to you (something many Notes users have done with rules or modified Notes mail templates for many, many years)
  • Ability to specify a default "reply-to" address on outbound mail, and a few other nice default settings.
  • When it's less buggy, the keyboard interface will be really impressive.  I don't think I've seen this in a web-based interface before, other than when Daniel Nashed added the key Notes-like capability to his nashcom website.
  • Correspondents are automatically added to the address book view.
Things I don't like so far:
  • Non-HTML outbound mail -- it's a plain text editor at the moment.  I was surprised that a new mail product in 2004 would be character/attachment generation.
  • It's just difficult to delete mail -- I know I have a 1 GB quota, but for housekeeping purposes, I just like to delete mail.  Delete is not a default action on the UI, though archive is.
  • That so much of the e-mail header is hidden -- you can't even see the SMTP address of the message sender without clicking "more options" (or am I missing something?).
  • That a message that Bruce forwarded to me ended up in my spam folder.
The thing that has been most controversial about gmail, around the in-line ads...honestly, I hadn't even paid attention until I consciously chose to do so when writing this review.  Why?  Because the dozen or so messages I've received there so far have, apparently, not had any of the magical keywords.  Most of them haven't popped up either ads or related google search content.
As a consumer-grade webmail, I think Google is on to a good thing.  I've been using Yahoo mail for years.  I'm grateful that they've responded to competitive pressure by upping the disk quotas, but they really need to make some other changes -- especially to their spam filter.  I've never used Yahoo's calendar anyway, and there's a bunch of other overload in their environment from my perspective.  Gmail is clean and simple, and for my consumer-grade e-mail, seems like it might be the right way to move forward.  At the moment, I've redirected @edbrill.com mail there, and we'll see if that continues to work out.
PS: Thanks to Kathleen for setting me up with gmail in the first place!  And I think it's de rigeur that I have to make the offer "I have a few invites if anyone is interested, just ping me."

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