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Why is Linux Email Stuck in the 90s? - page 2

Are FOSS Mailers Stagnating? Take a Cue from Google

  • September 13, 2010
  • By Joe Brockmeier
In general, Google has been thinking about communications in and around mail. Google Wave was, in some ways, very interesting as an email enhancement or replacement.

Google Wave tanked, hard, but I'm convinced the failure of Wave had more to do with the closed nature of the platform than the actual features. Some of the open source groups I've worked with have been psyched about Wave's features, only to get stuck on the fact that some of the group would be left out because they lacked invites. By the time Google was allowing mass signups, it was too late. The early adopters that would have helped drive Wave had lost enthusiasm and left. Wave was also imperfect, no doubt, but the real bullet in the temple for Wave was launching a collaboration tool that couldn't be effectively used for collaboration.

Even though Wave tanked, at least Google went out and did something interesting. It's hard to remember the last time that Evolution or Thunderbird shipped something really interesting that enhanced the way we work with email.

Gmail isn't perfect, feature or usability wise. It's annoying that Google's search-centric mindset means that you can't sort an inbox or folder by subject, author, date, etc. While I find the threading fairly useful, I know some users who practically spit nails when talking about Gmail because there's no way to un-thread conversations. Moving away from features and usability, I haven't even touched on the privacy problems and issues that come with giving Google control over mail. But there's no reason users shouldn't be able to have features and host their own mail, except that the crop of open source mailers have either stopped evolving or do so at such a glacial pace that it's infuriating.

The point here isn't that the teams working on Thunderbird, Evolution, Kmail, etc. should copy Gmail blindly. It's that these applications really aren't keeping up with the times. Most of us are hip-deep in email every day, and need better tools to manage it -- but the open source stuff is stuck in the 90s.

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