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Gmail, Don’t be a Yahoo!

In the 90’s I used to laugh at friends who all used Yahoo! as their personal email service. I did not understand how anyone could put up with the slow speeds of web-mail, and tried to convince them to install a decent email client, like Outlook, which is what most of them used in their corporate jobs.

Then things changed: Outlook grew into a bloated monster, it brought otherwise fairly speedy computers to a grinding halt and finding stuff in the archives of years of email became a gargantuan job. A new web-based email service came to rescue: Gmail was fast, well-organized, included productivity-boosters like labels and conversation-threading, and most importantly, you could not only search but also find old email in seconds! For this former Outlook-fan the switch was a no-brainer – in fact I ended up ditching almost all desktop software, moving online. (Gmail for mail and Zoho for most other tasks).

Life was good, I stayed productive and Gmail grew into a suite of productivity services by Google.  Too bad it’s breaking down – again…

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Gmail Faster? Are You Sure?

Great performance has always been an obsession at Google and it’s something that we think about and work on everyday. We want Gmail to be really fast, and we keep working on ways to make it faster

- says the Official Gmail Blog. They go on:

One of the areas we worked on was the initial loading sequence: everything that happens behind the scenes between the time you press the “Sign in” button on the login page and the moment you land in your inbox. While the improvements we made won’t resolve every “This is taking longer than usual…” message you might see when loading Gmail over a slow connection, we’ve seen a real reduction (up to 20%) in overall load time compared to when we started.

Hm…so the initial loading sequence got faster. Great news – I have only one question: Why do I now always see this previously unknown progress bar every time I sign in to Gmail?

Btw, I created the account specifically for this test, so it has absolutely no email to be pre-processed. Truth be told the progress bar flashes up and disappears quite fast in the empty account, but it stays there long enough in my real accounts with a lot of data. Not exactly a sign of progress, if you ask me (pun intended).

Update: A sure sign that Gmail must have gone through some changes is that the very popular Gmail Manager Firefox add-on is now knocked out: it is unable to login to any Google Apps email accounts. Regular Gmail accounts appear to be unaffected.

Update#2: I guess I should point out the positive side of the story: this approach is a lot better (transparent) then the Microsoft approach to their slow copy problem, where Vista SP1 improved (perceived) performance partly by rethinking the progress-bar. smile_omg

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FireFox Flocked: Feature Glut vs. Performance

Mozilla has released the scoop on Coop (sorry, couldn’t resist), a product that will incorporate social networking right into the FireFox browser.

This cannot be good news to social browser Flock (originally built on Mozilla) says TechCrunch. (Flock is another story on it’s own right: pre-release over-hype, underwhelming early beta, still waiting for a 1.0 product). Not everyone thinks Flock is .. well, *flocked*, for example Matthew Ingram and Mark Evans think the more competition the better.

But there is a bigger story here. The initial reaction on TechCrunch is almost unanimously negative – and it’s not the typical Arrington-bashing pile-on.

  • “I hope they offer a version without. I want a browser, not a social network.”
  • “I’d rather see them address the resource-hogging issues in Firefox. If social-networking features cause it to use any more system resources, I’ll need a freakin’ dedicated server just to browse the web.”
  • “It does sound exciting but why does Mozilla want to add further memory hogging features in firefox.”
  • “I don’t want anything more in Firefox until they stop it consuming 98% of my CPU cycles.”
  • “Firefox is still a resource hog. I’d rather see that fixed before it becomes a social browser.”

Clearly, users want their browsers to work reliably, fast, without becoming a resource-hog. I’ve said before, performance is a feature, and apparently it’s becoming feature #1 for many – yours truly included. I must be getting old, not getting this social “networking 24×7″ – heck, I don’t even watch Justin.tv smile_omg

Now, to be real, I’m sure (?) Coop will be an optional add-on, so those who don’t want it can continue with a more lightweight browser. But this mini-revolt at TechCrunch is a good reminder that the memory-hog issue has been present and largely unaddressed by Mozilla for years. I think it also offers a lesson to any software company: even your most religious fans/users can easily jump ship if either something better comes along, or you “flock” up badly.

Related posts: Startup Meme, Andy Beal’s Marketing Pilgrim, Infocult, Techscape, mathewingram.com/work, Mashable!, Mark Evans, Compiler, franticindustries, 901am, CenterNetworks, Between the Lines, The Social Web and more …