post

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…

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve)

post

Now Tell the Difference Between Folders and Labels

If you really think about it, there’s not much of a difference.  They are more or less the same.

Folders are a very old metaphor, as old as email and documents are.  Early email systems physically kept folders in separate files, and even when they were no longer separate files, basic functions like sort, search were limited within individual folders.  We got boxed in to physical folders.

The big break away from this, introduced by Gmail’s label concept was flat storage of email with only logical labels – but because labels were no longer physical containers, you could assign any item (email) to multiple folders.

The more traditional “folder-camp” was missing some of the good old attributes: drag-and-drop, nested folders (aka hierarchies)..etc – and lo and behold, little by little they all go it, the final step being the release of nested Gmail folders today.  Now tell me the difference between Folders and Labels.   They are one and the same, Labels are just more flexible Folders.

Actually, and to take this a few steps further, I’ve said before:

All folders are labels, but not all labels are folders.

But of course it’s all semantics … and I don’t want to quote my posts from a year ago … I suggest you read it (yes, shameless self-promo) because in the original post I laid out quite a few concepts for the improvement of folders / labels / tags .. whatever we call them.

I’m glad to see some of those concepts have become reality….

(P.S. Zoho – exclusive sponsors of CloudAve-  have been offering both folders and labels for a while in their Mail service, albeit kept separately.)

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve )

post

Gmail’s Undo Send Isn’t Really Undo, Just Like Multiple Inboxes Were Not Really Multiple Inboxes

First of all, I love Gmail, it’s my one-and-only email system.  And I’m certainly glad to see the ever accelerating rate of enhancements, whether “official” or just the Labs variety.  But oh, please, can we have some control here and call features what they really are?

First there was the multiple inboxes announcement.  Nice. Except that it wasn’t. Multiple inboxes, that is. Think about it: that would defy logic – unless we’re talking about handling multiple email accounts, which is clearly not the case with Gmail.  This feature is multi-pane viewing – no more, no less.

Today we’re getting another new feature: Undo Send. Except that it really isn’t. Undo Send, that is.

Undo Send is what Outlook has offered for ages: you can actually recall a message that had already been sent, provided the recipient has not opened it yet, and you’re both on Exchange.  What Gmail offers now is a momentary delay of 5 seconds, during which you may just realize you’re emailing the wrong Smith or Brown, and hit the panic Undo button. It’s not really undo, since the message was never sent in the first place – Gmail was holding it for 5 seconds, if you had enabled this option.

Of course, as just about all TechCrunch commenters note, 5 seconds is not enough, the delay might as well be configurable.  Something like this:

Oh, I forgot.  It’s from that other Web-mail system (the one that actually has multiple inboxes, too).

UpdateMG Siegler over @ VentureBeat agrees this is not real  unsend,  and he remembers AOL had a real unsend/recall feature, just like the Exchange theme I described above.

Update #2:  Oh, please… per Wired, Google already plans configurability, but all you get to pick is 5 or 10 seconds.

Related posts:

post

Google Lockouts are not Fun. Are You Prepared?

Loren Baker, Editor of Search Engine Journal discusses his experience of getting his Google account frozen without a warning.  Nothing new, we see these cases every few months. If you’re a well-know blogger like Loren, getting resolution might take 15 hours –  I don’t even want to think how long it would take for less prominent users get their account issues fixed.

There are a few things we can all learn from Loren’s case:

  • Communication – $50 buys you Phone Support
  • Backup – offline, within Google or another Web service
  • Your Domain – should be a no-brainer for Branding reasons anyway, and when all hell breaks lose, allows to quickly switch to another provider.

I’m discussing these and other steps to avoid disruption on CloudAve. (To stay up-to-date on SaaS, Cloud Computing and Business, grab the CloudAve Feed here).

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
post

Google Releases Zoho Mail with Offline Support

Yes, you read it right: the first announcement of Zoho Mail’s general availability, with Google Gears-based offline support did not come from Zoho, but from the Google Gears team, which released this video discussing Zoho’a use of Google Gears, synchronization, the Marketplace and  a lot more a bit prematurely:

Somewhat used to it (see TechCrunch Releases New Zoho Service: Invoice) the Zoho folks decided to play along and released their own announcement.

This announcement somewhat symbolizes the interesting dynamics between Zoho and Google: competitors, yet collaborators.   ReadWriteWeb is probably right:

But also Google probably sees Zoho less as a competitor at this point (even though Zoho does compete directly against Google Apps) and more as an evangelist for its technology – such as Google Gears.

First of all what’s in today’s announcement:

  • Zoho Mail has been in private beta for over a year now. As much as we like to switch to native collaboration using web-based tools, email is still where most productivity workers spend 80+% of their time.  Mail is the glue that brings it all together – so it’s important for Zoho to step out of background testing mode and make Mail publicly available. It’s also an integral part of the Zoho Business Suite.
  • Features: It’s an email service (everyone gets a [email protected] email account) and an email program that can consolidate several other email accounts, Outlook-style.  It combines old and new: supports hierarchical folders a’la Outlook as well as Gmail-style labels, chronological view as well as the threaded conversation views made popular by Gmail.
  • Access anywhere, any time: Offline access is provided via Google Gears (for now Firefox and IE only), and it’s also available on the iPhone.
  • Integrated Chat – this is another “glue” application within the Zoho Suite, and several other features listed here.

So with all that, why am I unhappy?  I’m a die-hard Gmail fan, mostly for its productivity boosting features:

  • Conversation threads
  • Labels
  • Search

Zoho Mail handles the latter two well, but I am not too happy with the way conversation threading works.  My business conversations last weeks, include dozens of emails, and on a traditional mail system the threads are basically a pain to put together before responding to someone.  Gmail handles it automagically, and as a side-effect, it presents a lot more information on it’s list screen – since the dozen individual emails are now compressed into one line.

But we all have different usage patterns. When debating the importance of threads, I looked at other Zoho Mail users whose conversations are typically one-off, so they won’t value threading feature at all.  In fact not everyone needs productivity.  Not everyone wants to go through a paradigm change.

AOL, YAHOO, Hotmail are the absolute web-mail market leaders,and they should do whatever it takes to keep their customers.  Their mainstream users are corporate employees who use Outlook in the Office, whether they like it or not is irrelevant, they are used to it. When they go home, they may not email a lot. Some will check their emails daily, once a week, or less. They want a personal email that resembles to what they already know.  For them familiarity is more important than productivity.

As much as I hate to admit it,  I am NOT the mainstream Zoho customer.  I am probably more a part of the TechCrunch 53,651 (even though it’s 1M now) than the mainstream customer base Zoho targets.   And if it wasn’t clear before, the current crisis brought home the message loud and clear: only businesses with real revenues survive.  Which probably means that for all my yelling and screaming, Zoho is quite right coming out with an email system that meets the needs of businesses who actually pay for it.  After all, this is what enables them to offer all the other apps I like for free.  And I like free. smile_wink

(Disclosure: I’ve been a long-time Advisor to Zoho and they are exclusive sponsor of my main gig, CloudAve. This article has been cross-posted there.)

post

Google Gears-powered Offline Mail, Application Marketplace by Zoho

Planned releaseLeak?  it doesn’t matter anymore, InformationWeek has just pre-announced two planned major Zoho upgrades:

Zoho Creator 3 will come with an apps marketplace, something I asked for a while ago. The App Store will allow developers set their own prices and keep 100% of the revenue.  It will also become a code-to-order marketplace: if you don’t find an app you need, spec it out, and receive offers from developers.

Now for the fun part: since the Chrome Comic Book, what better way to introduce a major new offering then by a comic video?

(Update:  Since the news was indeed unintentionally leaked, not released, I took off the embedded video.  The 356 of you who saw it: consider it a preview.  An updated version will be back @ Launch)

The other major announcement is making Zoho’s Web-based Mail service available off-line, based on Google Gears.  This will no doubt give Zoho Mail a competitive edge for a while.

It’s somewhat ironic that Zoho is always first to implement Google Gears (is Zoho doing Google’s testing?)  but if the past is any indication, Google’s own Gmail should follow suit soon.

Both upgrades are expected to go live in the coming weeks.