GMail, et al

As I get ready to discuss (unveil?) more of the thoughts on mobile computing, I’ve been using gmail recently. As a hardcore http://www.mailblocks.com user, it has been an interesting experience. The two focuses are so diametrically opposed. Mailblocks is very focused on letting me manage who can access me and how – They let me import contacts, forward mail from various places, create “trackers” and automatically route certain mail to them, and, of course, block spam. Pretty much completely. They recently redid their UI to use DHTML more actively, but they are still pretty much a classic web app in look and feel.

Google is clearly trying to think outside the box. Their use of DHTML is both audacious, astonishing, and sometimes almost annoying. It is incredibly quick and when entering a new contact name with just a key stroke or two, it is an almost visceral thrill. And it has a very untraditional outside of the box look and feel. But when Reply To requires an act of faith that a box will expand, I’m still not sure where I stand. And Google clearly doesn’t want me to delete. They want me to archive, file, label, and in general slowly build up a searchable volume of email whereas Mailblocks by default ages my mail.

I bring this up to point out that Web UI per se doesn’t mean an identical or even similar user experience. Both push, in their own way, the edge. In both cases, by the way, when I’m not connected, I can’t see my email as far as I know, which isn’t good. So, when people damn Web interfaces as being limiting, they should consider that it is in its own way a rich and malleable medium. It just isn’t mobile.

I’m getting some comments about Google’s mail product being withdrawn. To be honest, I think that’s ridiculous. It is an interesting and fun product and, frankly, it is voluntary. People need to get a life.

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