It seems that every time I stumble across a new and ingenious mail client, it gets pushed to the back burner by whatever company is managing it. This doesn’t literally mean that the applications are dead or suddenly unusable, but that they aren’t receiving the support one might expect from a company that’s invested any amount of time or money into creating and supporting them.
Mozilla’s Thunderbird was my favorite cross-platform email solution for quite a long time until it became clear that Thunderbird was no longer going to have a place in the top of Mozilla’s priority list. Sparrow, a brilliant blend of modern social integration and classic email, was a clear choice for me until the recent acquisition of talent at Google. Like Thunderbird, it is no longer expected to receive non-critical updates. There is hope, though, as Thunderbird continues to be tinkered with by the greater open source community.
Sparrow came out of the gate as a new take on email. Finally, an email client that looked and acted like a modern social network application. It’s a brilliant blend of a modern UI and traditional email. Unfortunately, when Google bought the talent and put them to work on the Gmail team, Sparrow was declared to be officially put on the back burner. Critical security updates might be applied, but no further innovation can be expected. Needless to say, I was fairly sad. Sparrow still works, but the appeal of something that is constantly evolving is lost.
So now I’m left using Mail.app on OS X and Windows Live Mail on Windows. I’ve become a bit of a fan of eM Client on Windows, though there really isn’t anything significantly new or innovative about the program that would make it more appealing to me than the app Microsoft provides for free.
Email clients aren’t dying, but they are on life support.
Email itself is an old technology. It hasn’t really changed much in the past 20 years. Sure, our clients have changed a bit and some companies, like Google, have taken it upon themselves to expand on traditional email through Web-based clients and improved handling of large files. Still, most privately managed email hosts are terrible at handling large files and even worse at providing a Web-based portal.
If anything, most normal users have an email address provided by their ISP, Google, Yahoo!, or Microsoft that is managed on a browser-accessible Web client. Folks with a private domain name and email account are actually not as common today as you might believe.
Corporate IT departments still manage a company email system, though this, too, isn’t done in any revolutionary new way that changes what email has been for the past 20 years.
It’s for this reason that creating an email client and making it the focus of your company’s development just doesn’t pay off as well as it once did. It’s an ancient communications method and its bases have already been covered. The standard isn’t changing any time soon, so why should the software made to use it change?
Perhaps the new emails are the offline messages you receive on Facebook or privately shared updates made on Google+?
These days, most of my interaction with friends takes place on social networks. I don’t get an email from a buddy anymore. If anything, email is exclusively a platform I use for business and/or receiving newsletters from sites in which I have an interest.
What I’d love to see in the future is an expansion on what Sparrow and Thunderbird started. Perhaps even an open source and cross-platform solution that combines what we love about email with some of the modern social and cloud solutions of today. Give me a truly robust email client that is as easy to use as it is powerful and as current as the platforms it competes against.
What features would you want to see in an email client? Are there any that would convince you to switch from your current client?