There are a great deal of Web 2.0/Ajaxified email services and calendaring applications popping up, but nothing that seems to fit the bill – what is the goal for the ultimate email/calendaring suite?
IMHO, its Windows Live Mail Beta. Although not launched yet, WLMb is as close as it comes, although it has flaws. A virtual AJAX clone of Outlook, it covers all the core features and performs very well. It also have a very clean interface. Email, calendar, tasks, notes, its all there, and so far, it seems to work.
However, WLMb has some significant flaws. First, its not owned by Google, so if you use Google for web search, hits in your WLMb box will never come up in Google searches.
Second, you can’t use your own domain – even if you pay (AFAICT). This means you are stuck with a hotmail.com email address, which isn’t very sexy and sometimes simply not practical.
Third, you cannot import your current .pst. This would be a very expensive and complex support offering, but I feel someone has to give it a shot.
- Email and Calendar integration. This is one reason I find it so hard to tear away from Outlook. I cant just have a Gmail and a 30boxes calendar – they need to be *integrated*. Yahoo! does this well in its current incarnation but while they have a ajax email client in beta, there’s no improvements on the horizon for the calendar.
- Calendar notifications. A calendar absolutely needs to be able to send realtime appointment notifications to a mobile phone and preferably a system tray notifier. Any calendaring system which cannot handle alerts is worthless IMHO. Its surprising how many ajax web calendar projects have propped up without it. And no wonder – its a more difficult system to maintain and scale then the calendar itself because scheduling and timezone issues. Regardless, its indispensible.
- Google-owned. Ideally Google needs to be the host of the service, as integration of your search engine with web, email, and calendar has just proven too convenient. The fact that Google has no calendar sibling to Gmail at this point amazes me.
- Free and paid services. Yahoo! has a key feature in that not only will they let you have your own domain address, but they can also offer you a very competitive hosting package for web with it. This is a terribly important pay service for an email provider. Gmail may eventually let you use your own domain name for Gmail, but your domain would be webless.
- Importation of massive Outlook files. Gmail tries to sell you on the idea that your email archive is a valuable archive database – I think we can all agree thats true. Unfortunately, most of us already have 90% of that archive sitting in a massive .pst folder. There are some significant technical hurdles in getting all that data uploaded and imported to Gmail, but its a worthwhile feature I would pay for.
- Data security and accessability (a pay service). This would be a business-level feature. First, a third-party security firm would need to be employed for continuous security monitoring of the system. This firm should also be regualrly monitoring the backup system to insure your account data is duplicated off-site. Finally, there can be no constraints on your data access. Want to download an entire ZIP files of ALL your data? You can do it, no hassle or support calls needed. Perhaps even a pay service which FedEx’s you a DVDROM. A guaranteed exit strategy.
- Offshore owned and hosted. As we have recently seen, internet data is anyone’s for the asking as Yahoo! and others coughed up whatever NSA wanted without a peep. Its sad, but if Americans want privacy, we will have to take our data where privacy is a feature of the govenment. Caymans. Bermuda. Whatever.