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Why Desktop Email Still Trumps Webmail 340

Posted by Zonk
from the get-ye-behind-me-web-two-point-oh dept.
p3net writes "Shortly before the release of Thunderbird 2.0 RC1, Wired held an interesting interview with Scott MacGregor, the lead developer of Thunderbird. He presents some views as to why desktop email clients still triumph, even in this much-dominated web age. 'Some users want to have their data local for privacy and control. Furthermore, you can integrate data from different applications on the desktop in ways that you can't do with web-based solutions, unless you stick to web solutions from a single provider. For example, you can use your Outlook address book with Thunderbird. We'd like to continue to expand the kinds of data you can share between Thunderbird and other apps (both web and desktop applications).'"
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Why Desktop Email Still Trumps Webmail

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  • by avronius (689343) * on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:22PM (#18678249) Homepage Journal
    It looks like Lightning is already available for download for Thunderbird 2...

    I haven't tried it yet - I've been using Sunbird - but the additional features that lightning provides will help Thunderbird on the road to becoming a more complete Microsoft Outlook competitor. If only we could convince someone to write the Exchange competitor on an open database...

    From the Sunbird / Lightning page http://www.mozilla.org/projects/calendar/lightning / [mozilla.org]

    Which is right for me?

    You may prefer Mozilla Sunbird if...
    you prefer your calendar to be separate from your email client
    you don't currently use Mozilla Thunderbird for your email
    you don't like adding add-ons [such as extensions or themes] to your applications

    You may prefer Lightning if...
    you send or receive meeting invitations via email
    you already use Mozilla Thunderbird for email
    you customize your applications with add-ons [such as extensions or themes]
    You can follow the Mozilla Calendar Weblog here >> http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/calendar/ [mozillazine.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by skiflyer (716312)
      I've been running Lightning on both 1.5 and 2.0 for a few months now, and then using BirdieSynch to synch it with my WindowsMobile device.

      It rocks. At this point the only reason I prefer my Outlook calendar setup comes down to integration with other apps and over the air synch with my mobile.

      Specifically
      1) Outlook has a button to "Create a new page in onenote" which opens up a new page, and puts all the meeting info in, then links the two so I can go back and forth... great feature for me.
      2) Over th
    • What a sucky design that would be.

      A client which integrates a directory, calendaring, todo, email and nntp with SyncML using open and standardised protocols sure. But we can do all that already with existing server systems.

       
    • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:13PM (#18679215)

      I was forced to give up using Thunderbird at work, because some people I started working with elsewhere in the organisation relied on Exchange+Outlook calendaring facilities. In other words, I ought to be a prime target for Lightning. I'm also a geek who understands more than a pretty UI about what's involved with actually doing this.

      What do I see at the top of the lightning page?

      • Open source
      • Open standards
      • Cross-platform
      • Extensible

      Do you know how many of those I care about at work? Exactly none. And neither does pretty much anyone else in the target market for this product.

      What I do care about is how well it integrates with Exchange Server, and whether its notifications for meetings and such are compatible with the business standard Exchange+Outlook combination. However, the word "Exchange" does not appear anywhere on the product home page; nor does "Outlook".

      In other words, either their web page is terrible, or this isn't even close to making Thunderbird into a serious Outlook competitor. Given that the current version of Lightning is 0.3.1 (as in, starting with "0.") I'm going to go with the not-even-close version, and so it just about everyone else.

      I'm afraid TFA was much the same: yet more of the popular "many eyes make secure software myth" (seriously, are we still peddling that nonsense?) and more cries about the greatness of Thunderbird due to its extensibility (does anyone reading this actually use Thunderbird with any extensions, never mind the natural way they are routinely used by Firefox users?).

      Sorry to be so negative. I'm grateful to those who spend their time writing Thunderbird and giving it away to others, I really am. But it's starting to suffer from the two major diseases of the OSS world: a mistaken belief that users care more about philosophy than functionality, and a mistaken belief that OSS is somehow immune to the normal problems with software development just because some of its popular applications haven't (yet) been compromised as badly as the mainstream commercial players. I like the product, but until its marketing stops talking crap, I'm going to criticise the marketing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by avronius (689343) *
        First, I said "competitor" - not replacement.

        Now, I'll address a few things in your response...

        Do you know how many of those I care about at work? Exactly none. And neither does pretty much anyone else in the target market for this product.

        Apparently you believe that there is room for exactly one collaboration tool in the universe. You seem to be oblivious to the market that exists outside the Windows space. Exchange integration isn't an option for people who regularly use MacOS*, Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, linux, OS/2, etc. My doctor uses a Macintosh computers in his office, I have an Ultra 80 at my desk, and support engineers running Blade's at theirs.

      • by thebdj (768618) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:38PM (#18679615) Journal

        What I do care about is how well it integrates with Exchange Server, and whether its notifications for meetings and such are compatible with the business standard Exchange+Outlook combination. However, the word "Exchange" does not appear anywhere on the product home page; nor does "Outlook".
        Since when has Exchange+Outlook been the business standard? It isn't a standard of anything, not even a de facto one. As much as it hurts to say, both Novell Groupwise and IBM Lotus Notes are far superior groupware applications. They are more easy to integrate into mixed environments as well, something Exchange is not as easy to deal with. You want real standards, I recommend looking at iCalendar [wikipedia.org] for calendar usage and IMAP [wikipedia.org] for mail serving. Of course, these are both easily supported by Thunderbird and can be used in a similar fashion to Outlook, without the need to be tied into a single, proprietary software program.

        (does anyone reading this actually use Thunderbird with any extensions, never mind the natural way they are routinely used by Firefox users?)
        I use at least two. I would have to look when I got home if there were more. First, I use Lightning. It is an extension that adds calendar capabilities to Thunderbird and guess what, it is linked to my Google Calendar, fairly easily. Second, I use the GPG extension, so I can encrypt/decrypt e-mail messages in the client. The plugin to do this for Outlook is notoriously buggy, and we have had a few problems with encrypted messages not leaving encrypted here at the office.

        I believe there are some spam filters and some other rather useful tools available, but I have not really taken the time to get and install them. Granted, it doesn't look small compared to the 5 or 6 extensions I have installed for FF, but there are so many extra things to get.

        Sorry to be so negative. I'm grateful to those who spend their time writing Thunderbird and giving it away to others, I really am. But it's starting to suffer from the two major diseases of the OSS world: a mistaken belief that users care more about philosophy than functionality, and a mistaken belief that OSS is somehow immune to the normal problems with software development just because some of its popular applications haven't (yet) been compromised as badly as the mainstream commercial players. I like the product, but until its marketing stops talking crap, I'm going to criticise the marketing.
        Um, you know why Firefox and Thunderbird are extremely more secure then their MS counterparts? For Firefox, it is a lack of ActiveX, which is nothing but trouble, and the fact that FF isn't as tied to the OS as IE is. Outlook suffers part of the trouble that IE does because they use common DLLs and libraries. It also suffers from the fact that the security of it is dependent on support from MS. You might not buy the "many eyes myth", but it is not too hard to see. You cannot hide a bug as easily when the code is available for all, you also do not have to rely solely on the vendor when code is available. OSS has many advantages, but I will admit it isn't going to solve all software woes.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Thaelon (250687)

          As much as it hurts to say, both Novell Groupwise and IBM Lotus Notes are far superior groupware applications.

          You've got to be kidding me.

          Outlook has usability problems, but Lotus Notes is a usability nightmare.

          Outlook:
          Options buried 23409823 clicks deep. Parts of the interface aren't very intuitive. Search utilities suck horribly.
          Mail and calendar work beautifully, especially scheduling meetings for when 20 people and the conference room are free.

          Cons of Lotus Notes:
          Exposes the user to the fact that its a

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ak3ldama (554026)

        I'll bite, first the four things you mention:
        * Open source
        * Open standards
        * Cross-platform
        * Extensible
        Open standards are kind of important in the world of software. As for "many eyes make secure software myth" (seriously, are we still peddling that nonsense?), we'll be peddling this 'nonsense' for a long time because it's important. Security through secrecy doesn't work.

        Just because Cross-platform and Extensible are things you do not care about doesn't make them useless features that are not imp

      • by walt-sjc (145127) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @03:07PM (#18680079)
        Um, seems to me that you are a little confused. You claim that you don't care about open standards, and then you whine that it doesn't work with Exchange. The "open standards" part is all about interoperability. If Exchange used open standards, then lightning could easily work with it. Why is it Lightning's fault that your company chose a non-standard proprietary mail / calender server? While Exchange is popular at some sites, it is hardly "business standard."

    • Scalix...

      http://www.scalix.com/ [scalix.com]
      • by robpoe (578975)
        Not terribly free ..

        "Scalix Community Edition is a product we've packaged and made available for free so every organization can try out and use our robust messaging solution. It includes Scalix Collaboration Platform - which serves as the foundation for all our product editions - and 25 Premium User mailboxes. As such, Community Edition is a field-proven, commercial grade email platform. As with all Scalix editions, it has a flexible, open architecture, and supports Outlook, Evolution, Scalix Web Access, an
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by amper (33785) *
      If only we could convince someone to write the Exchange competitor on an open database...

      What, like this [calendarserver.org]?

      Why do people use Outlook and Exchange? Because Outlook is more full-featured than any other email client out there (I admit, this isn't always a good thing, but just try getting someone who *wants* those features to use a generic IMAP application. And Outlook will *never* do IMAP right, because that eliminates most of the reason to buy Exchange), and because Exchange gives you the calendaring and schedu
  • 6 Of One... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Nos. (179609)
    Generally speaking, desktop based applications will have more features and better integration, but web based applications have the advantage of being portable, not to mention they're (generally) easier to upgrade for multiple users.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by UbuntuDupe (970646) *
      Yeah, it was always kind of obvious to me. With a desktop client, you don't have to load a web browers, go the page, and click on inbox. It doesn't have to reload a bunch of stuff to bring up an email. Deleting is easier. Attaching is easier.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by MrBugSentry (963105)
        You also don't have to trust your ASP with your data.
        Or if you do host your data with somebody else, you can use public key encryption and not trust them with the access to your data, keeping your private key on your system.
      • Re:6 Of One... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:05PM (#18679057)
        True. But those of us who are extremely mobile and on the run all the time can sacrifice ease of attachments and deleting for webmail. I forward all of my email to my Gmail account. It's a fantastic interface (makes me productive), it's quick (I've never seen it slugish), it's portable, and it's encrypted for when I'm on unsecure connections (https://mail.google.com). Did I mention it's free?

        Just as the time came when everyone went from centralized servers to desktops, the time is coming where everything will move back to centralized servers.

        • by cmacb (547347)

          Just as the time came when everyone went from centralized servers to desktops, the time is coming where everything will move back to centralized servers.

          Thank GOD!! ...and all (or mostly) because the people who made IBM dumb terminals and the people who made Wang (and other) dumb terminals didn't think it worth the effort to come up with a standard for such devices. Now the PC, for the most part, is that standard.

          The disadvantage to this "all the way around the barn" path that we've taken is that we now ha

          • I think in short order you'll see a device like this. It'll run Firefox (or some standard rendering engine), grab a DHCP address when plugged into a network, and have a couple of USB ports (keyboard, mouse, USB keydrive). While this won't cut it for power users, it will for your Grandmother who wants to check email (Gmail), look at pics of the grandkids (Flickr), and check her retirement account (pick your firm here). No fuss, no muss.
          • by Gilmoure (18428)
            After seeing a presentation by Intel and Apple, concerning how Parallels is using the virtualization tools built into the Core Duo chips (allows Windows and Linux to run at full speed, within/over OSX), I can see OSes become more like Window Managers. The Intel guys were talking about putting more device driver tools on the chips as well. Once most of the low level stuff is hard coded and apps just have to be written once, it won't really matter who makes your GUI. In ten years time, it's likely most folks
      • by Lazerf4rt (969888)
        Yes, exactly. In fact, very few people in the world really get excited about Web 2.0 apps. But, being on the web, these people are a very vocal minority. They blog about it, and stuff. So as an observer, if you're easily fooled, you might walk away with the impression that Web 2.0 apps are huge. "much-dominated web age" as the summary puts it.

        Google Maps and some other things are great, and everything, but it only goes so far. The web platform is a piece of crap platform to develop desktop applications on.
      • It doesn't have to reload a bunch of stuff to bring up an email. Deleting is easier. Attaching is easier.
        Ever tried Yahoo's new email client? Try it, it's as good as any desktop app I've ever used. This Ajax stuff has come a long way in the last few years. My only gripe is that if you have 2000 messages in your inbox it becomes excruciatingly slow.
      • Re:6 Of One... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by j00r0m4nc3r (959816) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:46PM (#18679747)
        Deleting is easier. Attaching is easier.

        Try getting to your old email messages from the hospital to find the phone number of your friend's mother at the critical moment. I delete and attach so few messages it really doesn't matter if it takes a couple more seconds with a web client than a desktop app. Having access to my email from anywhere in the world at any time is far more valuable. I will never go back to desktop email.
        • Re:6 Of One... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by rabbit994 (686936) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @03:20PM (#18680239)
          Easy, pay a little extra money for email with a provider that offers IMAPv4 access. That way you have your email stored on a server and can still access via webmail. Cost a little more but better then leaving it with Google. It scares me how much data people are willing to leave with companies that a vested interest in cataloging everything they can get their hands on and have limited set of ethics.
        • Re:6 Of One... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Onan (25162) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @03:37PM (#18680503)

          Having access to my email from anywhere in the world at any time ...
          I believe you meant "having access to my email from any computer I'm willing to give my authentication credentials". For me, that already narrows things to my own machines, so I don't really see much advantage here. I'm completely mystified by people who are willing to just spray their passwords into friends' machines, cafe machines, or any other unstrusted devices.
    • Re:6 Of One... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Silver Sloth (770927) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:32PM (#18678447)
      An additional balance is all about data security.

      On the one hand Google do better backups than I do and I'd be amazed if I ever lost data from my Gmail account

      On the other hand do I want sensitive data stored on someone else's server?

      You decide...
      • Re:6 Of One... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Assassin bug (835070) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:47PM (#18678741) Journal

        On the other hand do I want sensitive data stored on someone else's server?

        Two other important questions related to the one above...
        Do you own your own email server? If the answer is no, do you have your client options set such that email messages are deleted from the email server once they are grabbed by your client?
        I don't think that data are any more secure on non-web clients unless the user is actually aware of what makes their data more or less secure.
      • by Kadin2048 (468275)

        An additional balance is all about data security.

        On the one hand Google do better backups than I do and I'd be amazed if I ever lost data from my Gmail account

        On the other hand do I want sensitive data stored on someone else's server?

        True, in the short term.

        In the long term, though, all those servers cost a lot of money to operate. Google isn't just going to keep everyone's email around forever if they're not making money from it in some way. The security of your data, therefore, depends on the continued su

      • Re:6 Of One... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Bogtha (906264) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:49PM (#18678769)

        On the other hand do I want sensitive data stored on someone else's server?

        The privacy angle is bogus. If you are using somebody else's mx, then they can archive all your mail anyway, even if you are using a desktop application. If you are using your own mx, then there's nothing stopping you installing a webmail application on your own server.

      • On the other hand do I want sensitive data stored on someone else's server?
        You don't have to trust them. But then, I'd put money on it that you send all your emails plain text.

         
        • by Nasarius (593729)
          Exactly. If you're sending around "sensitive data" unencrypted, you're crazy. PGP and GnuPG have various plugins and GUIs that make it very easy; Enigmail is particularly good.
      • by massysett (910130)
        On the other hand do I want sensitive data stored on someone else's server?

        Of course not. You'd better stop using email then. Email is like a postcard. It can be read or archived by anybody at any step in its journey.

        If something is somewhat sensitive, you'd better encrypt it. If it's very sensitive, it doesn't belong in email at all. Email is NOT PRIVATE.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fyngyrz (762201) *

      Generally speaking, desktop based applications will have more features and better integration, but web based applications have the advantage of being portable

      Well, but so are laptops, palmtops, and etc; so are server accounts where you leave the mail on the server and can download it into multiple clients, so that you can get your mail at work, but that still leaves it retrievable at home, both on real (that is, non-web) clients.

      I'm not comfortable, frankly, with Google or whomever handling my mail.

      • Isn't someone usually handling your mail anyhow? I mean, unless you're sending all your mail encrypted (in which case who cares is Google handles it?) or all of your mail is on your own server on your own network and it never leaves your own network, it seems to me you have to consider your e-mail to be "in the wild".

        Really, even if you're keeping your e-mail on your personal server, if you're conversing with people who use Gmail, Google has that e-mail anyway.

    • by Malc (1751)
      Can I index my web mail with X1? I thought not.
  • Sorry... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tenchiken (22661) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:25PM (#18678307)
    I was a huge advocate for these types of programs... Then Gmail came out. I rationalized sticking with them in that I didn't want Google reading my email. Then I started using Zimbra. It doesn't make sense to have thick clients anymore, when the web apps can do everything that the desktop apps can, and there is a solid open source program for hosting it yourself.

    The Zimbra guys even have connectors for Evolution and Exchange if you want to stick with thick desktop apps, but if there is one thing Gmail has proven is that users are willing to give up functionality for remote accessibility, and with Zimbra, they don't even have to do that.
    • There are things in Gmail I've never seen anywhere else. For example, if there is an address in an email you receive, Gmail automatically creates a link to map the address with googlemaps. That's the kind of kickass idea that something like Outlook would never have.
      • Re:Yes, Gmail (Score:4, Informative)

        by tenchiken (22661) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:48PM (#18678751)
        Actually, Zimbra has that as well. As well as salesforce.com integration, and integrated mashups via Zimlets.
      • by Kadin2048 (468275)
        I agree that's pretty neat (also, being able to open an attached spreadsheet in Google Docs and work on it without installing anything is pretty slick, too). However, there's no reason why you couldn't have that in a desktop/client-side email client.

        There was a time, not that long ago, when automatic highlighting of URLs in plaintext email, and automatically routing those links to your web browser, was a pretty slick feature. Now, it's considered standard. I can't think of a major desktop email program that
        • by tenchiken (22661)

          I agree that's pretty neat (also, being able to open an attached spreadsheet in Google Docs and work on it without installing anything is pretty slick, too). However, there's no reason why you couldn't have that in a desktop/client-side email client.


          It's just harder. With a web based system, it's always going to be easier to do mashups.
    • Re:Sorry... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by penix1 (722987) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:34PM (#18678481) Homepage
      "It doesn't make sense to have thick clients anymore, when the web apps can do everything that the desktop apps can..."

      Until you don't have an Internet connection. I can type up 30 emails and queue them in the outbox until I do get connected if it is local.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tenchiken (22661)
        Not true. The Zimbra guys released Zimbra deskop, which allows for a full offline mode for Zimbra. That isolates you from network latency issues, lets you view and edit, send and edit email, calendar entries and contacts, and queue it in a outbox. It's also open source.
        • by Palshife (60519)
          That sounds like a Zimbra-specific thick client. Why would I want the extra layer? Why use Zimbra and not any other IMAP capable groupware?
        • I think that the original point was that there is no possibility of off-line work in a purely web-based system. Open-source aside, is there any real difference between Zimbra desktop and Outlook, Thunderbird any other client-based MUA?
      • Re:Sorry... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Matt Perry (793115) <perry DOT matt54 AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @03:13PM (#18680149)

        "It doesn't make sense to have thick clients anymore, when the web apps can do everything that the desktop apps can..."
        Until you don't have an Internet connection. I can type up 30 emails and queue them in the outbox until I do get connected if it is local.
        I use Gmail and I can type 30 emails and send them later too. What do you think text editors are for? I realize that if you find yourself without a network connection often then working with local application might be useful. But don't pretend that because you don't have a network connection every so often that you are suddenly unable to type.
    • With our company using Zimbra I no longer use a client side mail app for either personal or business email.
    • by Malc (1751)
      Can I index Gmail with X1? Nope.

      I just RDP in to my home computer when I'm away from home. Remote access problem solved. Added benefit is that if I'm at work, they can't see my personal email.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by value_added (719364)
      It doesn't make sense to have thick clients anymore, when the web apps can do everything that the desktop apps can ...

      A bit presumptuous, maybe?

      I take for granted the following, and then some: regular expression support; being able to easily read or manage mailboxes that have tens of thousands of messages; a fully customisable and intuitive interface that corresponds with other programs I regularly use; on and off-line access to mail stores and archives; the ability to copy, move, sort, filter, munge, rewri
  • by HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) * <lajollahomeless@hotmail.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:26PM (#18678335) Homepage Journal
    Didn't we already see this [slashdot.org]?

    More to the point: desktop applications are inherently preferable to the individual user. The argument can be made that a corporate environment, in which more than twenty people may need to use a program with limited seats in a license, or in which more than five people need to work collaboratively on the same data set, a client-server type may be more appropriate. Webapps are a client-server type of application in which the client is the web browser and the server is the application running within the web server. Viewing it as such may help to expose the odd nature of allowing so many middle layers to persist.

    Desktop apps are important not only for security but also for efficiency and to prevent the gratuitous overconsumption of network resources.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Thunderbird won't be replacing Outlook for me until they figure out that not everybody wants the reply to show up underneath the original message. I've tried to switch twice because IMAP support sucks in Outlook, but I can't stand paging down through 5 screens to get the most recent comment on an email that has gone back and forth. Hey guys, how about a configuration option?
      • by MBGMorden (803437)
        I don't get it - are your referring to your inbox view? If so you can put newer messages on top easily enough.

        If you're referring to the message body itself, then that's a function of the client of the person who replied, not the person receiving the reply.

      • by dorix (414150) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:45PM (#18678713)
        You mean this one?

        Tools -> Account Settings -> [your account] -> Composition & Addressing
        Check "Automatically quote the original message when replying"
        And select "Then, start my reply above the quote"

        Granted, that's not the default, and not everybody will bother to change it, but there is indeed a configuration option. Even if it were the default, some people would probably change it back to what it is now anyways. If you're participating in a long email thread, you can always trim out old quotes yourself every three or four replies so it doesn't get out of hand.
  • by Phoenix (2762) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:32PM (#18678443)
    But on the other hand Webmail is catching up when you consider some of the features of G-Mail.

    Gmail has the distinct advantage of being both web accessible while at the same time also accessible via any pop3 e-mail client.

    Sort of a "cake and eat it too" scenario.

    I currently use Thunderbird to keep track of the 4 accounts that my wife and I use. I also have the ability to access my mail online should I not have my laptop with me. I also have the ability to use GMail as an offsite backup of my mail should I ever have a total OS crash and need to reinstall. The large amount of storage on the gmail servers plus the ability to re-download anything stored on the gmail servers means that I can restore my local copy of my emails.

    If more webmail sites used gmail's strategy, webmail would likely catch up to pop3 and possibly surpass it
    • I have two problems with Gmail right now:

      1. There is no elegant offline viewing of email. When "on the go" I don't have access to an internet connection half the time so I can't read my gmail. (I don't want the overhead of the entire Google Desktop and that is a hack anyway). Plus, Gmail has been unavailable to me 3 times already this week (Error: please try back later).

      2. While Google's triple redundant approach to backups sounds pretty good, what if they accidentally delete my mailbox? Stuff ha
      • by Otto (17870)

        1. There is no elegant offline viewing of email. When "on the go" I don't have access to an internet connection half the time so I can't read my gmail. (I don't want the overhead of the entire Google Desktop and that is a hack anyway). Plus, Gmail has been unavailable to me 3 times already this week (Error: please try back later).

        I've never seen Gmail unavailable, except when Google actually went down due to DNS issues between me and them.

        However, with GMail mobile running on my cell phone (Java app for mobiles, browse to http://gmail.com/app [gmail.com] ), I'm never without access to quick and easy email.

        The backup issue is a potential problem. But you can fire up a POP client and download all your messages locally if you want, so where's the fire there?

        The short of it is that since I've started using GMail, I've not needed an email client on

    • by garcia (6573)
      From uploading mobile photos to my galleries to having my wife submit lengthy Excel spreadsheets to find out the County from a City and State, I use e-mail and procmail along with various scripts to do a ton of shit before it's forwarded to the local INBOX and eventually on to GMail for permanent storage.

      Until the day that GMail lets me use procmail to do what I want with my e-mail before it hits my INBOX, I will continue to use "desktop e-mail" (If you can consider pine desktop e-mail).
  • Drag and Drop (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sarahbau (692647) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:34PM (#18678483)
    One of the main things I don't like about web mail is I've not seen one that lets me just drag a file or picture right into the message pane. If I want to email 8 pictures to someone, I normally have to click "add file," locate it, then do that 8 times (and many make me upload them one at a time as well, so that takes even longer). Another thing is the ability to get all 5 of my email accounts at once, instead of having to log into 5 different web pages.
  • by Chairboy (88841) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:34PM (#18678489) Homepage
    The discussion about local e-mail clients vs. web clients is similar to discussions about digital cameras and pistols.

    When talking about cameras to buy, some folks advocate SLR, expandable, large cameras that have huge optical zoom, attachment points, and a huge slew of features. Other folks will say "I'll take an Elph" (or some other small format, quality camera that's the size of a pack of cigarettes. The most common argument the big camera people will use is something to the effect of 'yes, but you're sacrificing 20% image quality' (or something along those lines. A common response? "Sure, but I'm about X times more likely to actually HAVE the camera on me when something interesting happens. A big camera that takes slightly better pictures that's at home is less useful to me than this."

    Concealed pistol arguments have both sides too. "I prefer the 9MM Glock" or "Nothing less than a .45 will do the job, it has _stopping power_." There will usually be folks on the other side who say "Those are nice, but I prefer a .22 Pistol. It's small enough that I'm much more likely to actually have it on me if something happens in public. A heavy, bulky gun that's sitting on the dresser is much less useful to me when I'm in danger than a small .22 that I can carry every day."

    E-Mail clients seem to be heading in the same direction. T-Bird has some great features and rationales for using. It does stuff that can only really be done from a fixed location (private mail, etc), and yes, it can integrate with desktop apps. But... I rarely use those extra features. I've switched to webmail knowing that I'm trading off some features, but the payoff of being able to actually GET to it wherever I am has paid off many more times than not having integration into MS Word or something.

    Different audiences, different needs, but both sides have their reasons.
    • by Fez (468752) *
      I like to take the "best of both worlds" approach. At home I use Thunderbird with IMAP. I also have a webmail client for the same account. The same mail is accessbile in both locations, including all folders, sent items, trash, etc. I can also make local copies or use folders offline if needed while using Thunderbird. The only thing that I can't do is sync the address book (which would be very useful!)

      I much prefer to use Thunderbird for most of my mail usage, but webmail isn't that far off. I use RoundCube [roundcube.net]
    • by RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:57PM (#18679935)

      E-Mail clients seem to be heading in the same direction. T-Bird has some great features and rationales for using. It does stuff that can only really be done from a fixed location (private mail, etc), and yes, it can integrate with desktop apps. But... I rarely use those extra features. I've switched to webmail knowing that I'm trading off some features, but the payoff of being able to actually GET to it wherever I am has paid off many more times than not having integration into MS Word or something.


      People assume desktop clients mean POP3, probably because that's all that GMail offers. Well, of course that's what GMail offers - because they don't want you to know about IMAP.

      My provider offers webmail AND IMAP support. I can view my mail on my computers using Thunderbird. Or, if I don't have Thunderbird available or configured, I can just log into webmail. All my mail is synchronized between the server and the client. If I delete something in webmail, it's deleted in Thunderbird - and vice versa.

      Oh, and I can view my mail on my PDA, too - without using the crappy Google client. And with IDLE support, I get new messages the instant they arrive - on both my PC and my PDA. And I can set up rules on the server to filter mailing lists and other emails into folders.

      People think GMail is the end-all of mail because the only other thing they have used is some ISP's crappy POP3 mail.

      Thunderbird displays all 6500 messages in my inbox at the same time, on the same screen. Which webmail can do that? Thunderbird downloads mail to my local system, so I can access it offline. Which webmail does that? Thunderbird supports S/MIME encryption and signatures.
  • by JoeWalsh (32530) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:35PM (#18678509)
    For example, you can use your Outlook address book with Thunderbird.

    And Outlook also works with just about any mass mailing worm, virus, or trojan out there!

    I'd like to see you try that with a web client!

    Nope, I'm stickin' with Outlook.
    • I'd like to see you try that with a web client!

      Difference is when a virus DOES affect my box, it only affects my box. Should someone take out gmail or yahoo mail then exactly how many people are screwed?
  • Working offline (Score:5, Interesting)

    by captainjaroslav (893479) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:35PM (#18678519)
    That's the main reason I like using Apple's mail.app. I can write emails when I'm somewhere where I don't have an Internet connection and then send them later when I do. Also, if you're somewhere with a slow connection, it only affects the sending and receiving, whereas, in my experience, a slow connection affects all of the navigating through messages and almost everything else you might do with Web mail.

    Graphically, I also think most clients are nicer to look at. That may not be that important to most people, but it is to me.

    That said, I like that I have the option of using Web mail when I'm near someone else's computer. (Ideally, I think I'd use IMAP so that my folders, etc. from my client would match the ones I see when I log on using the Web. I've actually been looking for a provider that offers IMAP where I could also transfer my domains so I'd still have everything in one place. I'm also looking for a price that would be competitive with GoDaddy, who currently handles my email and domains.)
    • by mikey_boy (125590)
      http://www.kdawebservices.com/ [kdawebservices.com] - I use them for a bunch of domains, imap and the like. I dunno about price competition though, I am too lazy to worry about it once I find a price I am happy to pay.
    • I'm a fan of DreamHost.

      Unlimited domains, Unlimited E-mails, $8/month. Plus I have a TON of space.

      Enough that I'm using it as a backup for all pictures. I have an rsync that syncs all of my documents to their server once a day.

      For $8/month it's great. I have all my e-mail hosted there. My catchall gets forwarded to google then bounced back to my main account. So google does my spam filtering for me.
  • You guys would be really impressed with the insightful comment that I made about this in my desktop version of /.

    I would tell you about it, but I would just be repeating myself.

    +5 Insightful
    -5 Lonely bastard
  • search... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pointbeing (701902) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:45PM (#18678703)
    I host my own personal mail and use horde exclusively - at work I use Outlook because I need considerably more horsepower than a web client is able to give me.

    Today I had to pull page counts from ten HP 0299c digital senders and the scanners IP addresses were spread out through ten different work orders - using an outlook plugin called Lookout (this company was eaten by Microsoft but you can still find the plugin if you look around) I was able to search a bit less than 4gb of email archive in two different .psts for the string 'digital sender' in a bit more than half a second. 709 hits that I can browse because the word order number is in the subject line.

    You'd play hell doing that with a webmail client.
    • Sorry, that's HP 9200c - that's what I get for not proofing before I post ;-)
  • Add to the list one thing: sorting. No matter how Google would like to claim that Search is better than Sort, it isn't. If you don't know exactly what you're looking for, you're doomed. Was the email from John/James/Juhn ? How do you search for something so vague?
    While desktop client allows you to easily re-order inbox, and then filter out with flexible searches.
    Plus the regular advantages of offline storage, better security, integration with other applications (though new Google agents allow integration wh
    • by vertinox (846076)
      Add to the list one thing: sorting. No matter how Google would like to claim that Search is better than Sort, it isn't. If you don't know exactly what you're looking for, you're doomed. Was the email from John/James/Juhn ? How do you search for something so vague?

      Umm... If you don't know what you are looking for, sorting won't work either unless you can read really fast while scrolling. If you are talking about scrolling, then yes, desktop apps beat webmail hands down.

      But sorting your emails any differently
  • I dunno, I just see desktop apps are an over complication for me, thus Desktop Email has never Trump Webmail for me... Webmail is just more portable for me, I only need portable firefox and no portable thunderbird...
  • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@kei[ ]ead.org ['rst' in gap]> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:02PM (#18678991) Homepage

    Really. all the major mail clients piss me off in different ways.

    Thunderbird - where is my ability to point Thunderbird at two or three address books simultaneously? Still way behind the times when it comes to cross-account integration. You can only add ONE remote address book, and it HAS to be LDAP. No remote VCARD address book support. Just starting to get on board with multiple remote calenders.

    Also - why the hell is there not a white-list for SSL certs? I KNOW my mail server has an untrusted self-signed cert. Frankly I don't give a fuck -it's my server I trust it, all I care is that it's encrypted. So Why do you have to pop up an annoying SSL cert dialog every freaking time I start up? Every other mail client on the planet allows me to accep tthis dialog once and NOT PROMPT ME AGAIN.

    Outlook 2007 - WHY THE HELL DO YOU NOT HAVE PROPER THREADING YET. It's been 6+ years since this feature was available in all the open source clients. You'd think a billion dollar company could pull it off.

    However, much better than thunderbird now when it comes to multiple accounts and calenders and address books. Supports a crapload of formats for both. Still not as good as KMail in this area, but a close second.

    KMail - Stop crashing on me already. Also get HTML composer support in order, this is 2007 now you're like 4 years behind the times. As well, why can't I work in one folder while another account loading? There is no need to put this stupid wait screen up over the whole message area. However - nice work on the multitiude of calender and address book formats. If only exchange calenders worked properly.

    I am starting to think I need to fork my own client off to get the functionality I need.

    • by Ash-Fox (726320)

      KMail

      I am using KDE 3.5.6, Kontact 1.2.4, kmail 1.9.6, kaddressbook 3.5.6

      Stop crashing on me already.

      Kmail does not crash with me.

      Also get HTML composer support in order, this is 2007 now you're like 4 years behind the times.

      Eh? I can use HTML formatting features just fine in kmail? Try Options -> Formatting (HTML)

      As well, why can't I work in one folder while another account loading?

      Because things like filters for some obscure reason have to finish before you can perform a action. This is a known issue b

      • by brunes69 (86786)

        I am using KDE 3.5.6, Kontact 1.2.4, kmail 1.9.6, kaddressbook 3.5.6

        Same.

        Kmail does not crash with me.

        You're obviously not excersizing it with multiple IMAP accounts like me.

        Eh? I can use HTML formatting features just fine in kmail? Try Options -> Formatting (HTML)

        Try to reply to an HTML email with the formatting intact. WHOOPS! Try to create an HTML formatted signature. WHOOPS! Try to paste an image from your clipboard into the email. WHOOPS!

        All these things have been in progress @ bugs.kde.org

    • You can only add ONE remote address book,

      You can add multiple LDAP servers. Unfortunately, I believe you can only use one at a time (you can associate a different one with each of your accounts, though & there are extensions which make switching between accounts easier).

      and it HAS to be LDAP. No remote VCARD address book support.

      The sync kolab extension will sync the local addressbook with vcards in an IMAP directory. Most email clients don't have remote VCARD support of any kind. It would be nice if

  • For example, you can use your Outlook address book with Thunderbird.

    Intellisync for Yahoo lets you synchronize your Yahoo webmail address book with Outlook and your PDA. Works great for me. Also syncs calendar, todo, and notepad.
  • by Blahbooboo3 (874492) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:12PM (#18679207)
    Big risk at being modded down, but I have to say it...

    I have tried MANY times to use Thunderbird. Every time it fails for some weird quirk or another. The profile mechanism just doesn't work properly. It never stores the profile where i want without a whole bunch of fussing with a special start of Thunderbird (thunderbird -profile or something). Then, when I migrate my email into Thunderbird, it just cant handle huge volumes RELIABLY each time I have tried. Sometimes it imports, but invariably it fails afterwards in terms of speed or just disappearing the inbox -- which leads to the oh so helpful fix people point to about restoring the profiles.

    So I am glad he has his opinions on email. But with all the issues with Thunderbird I think he should try to make that application must easier to manage (note, I didn't say "use") and less time on interviews IMHO. Oh, and please don't reply with "Oh, I have a 10k message inbox and it works fine for me." I know, many of you have no problems but if you google thunderbird you will see my own experience is not rare.
    • by Noksagt (69097)

      The profile mechanism just doesn't work properly.

      It works the exact same way as other Mozilla applications. In most cases, making heavy use of multiple profiles is limited to testing--what other use cases are there for needing multiple profiles? Most people with multiple accounts want them all in one profile. The few who want to keep them partitioned will only have a few profiles, so it is easy to make shortcuts. What client are you using that has better profile support? Most clients lack profiles alto

      • Exactly, I don't like the whole profiling mechanism design. It takes me too much time to figure it out each time I try Thunderbird again. At this point I recently moved to Gmail and I am surprised how much I like the design and labels! SHOCKED actually....

        The format I am importing is (yes I am embarrassed! :) ) is Outlook Express email.
  • ...when you can have both [citadel.org]?
  • by massysett (910130) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:25PM (#18679431) Homepage
    FTA

    Some users want to have their data local for privacy and control.

    I can think of many reasons to use a desktop mail client. Some of them are actually good reasons. But this one is completely ridiculous. Email is not private. If he had said "Some users want to have their email local so that they can decrypt and encrypt it with GnuPG," that would have been an understandable statement. But plain text email is not private, under any circumstance, ever, any more than a postcard with plain text is private!

    I hope people are not using desktop email thinking it is more private. A false sense of security is worse than no security!
  • ... since the 20th century. THe exception is at work.

    I can access my email anywhere with web based email programs and I do not have to remember any complicated smtp or pop3 information that changes when I switch ISPs either. Its just always there.

    I do not understand how client based email programs are better? Maybe customization in a proprietary ms shop I can see. But Thunderbird is not integrated with MS products like OUtlook is and it will never catch up as MS uses its products to lock out competitors.
  • by BlueParrot (965239) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:55PM (#18679877)
    A lot of posters here talk about certain features with a desktop client against a web client not realising that none of this has anything to do with weather the mail is web based or local. The interface can look the same weather on the desktop or a server ( at least in theory) the question is what difference the location of the actual process that handles the input and output makes. There are advantages and disadvantages to both schemes.

    Web based:
    Can be accessed from any computer that has a browser.
    Mail cannot be read while offline

    Desktop based:
    Requires a configured mail client
    All mail can be downloaded at once and read at a latter date when an internet connection is not available

    It would appear to me that this means Web based mail would be more attractive to Desktop users who can't easily move their computer arround and who are likely to have a permanent internet connection whereas Laptop and Notebook users would prefer a local client as wireless availability can be limited and it is easier for them to move arround. Of course, you coudl always go with my aproach. I use a web based e-mail but keep a local copy on my desktop. That way I can read my mail from anywhere I want and I also have it available if my connection dies ( which is rather often unfortunately ). Best of both worlds in my opinion.
  • interesting project (Score:3, Informative)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @03:46PM (#18680663)
    There is a group working on an open source clone of Exchange using a reverse engineered version of MAPI. This is still pre-alpha, but it is interesting. The project is called Openchange. [openchange.org]
  • by Chris Snook (872473) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @07:15PM (#18683449)
    I use Thunderbird for work and Gmail for my personal mail. Each is ideal for its designated task. If I was forced to use webmail for work and Thunderbird for personal mail, I would go nuts.

    So, enough with these "foo is better than bar" declarations. Both exist and are popular because they are the best solution for *some* problem.

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