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Software Communications

Why Desktop Email Still Trumps Webmail 340

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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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:36PM (#18678523)
    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 jrentona ( 989920 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:42PM (#18678667)
    Would you use a phone service if you knew all of your phone calls could exist on an internet connected computer indefinitely for some geek hacker to browse through and maybe post on YouTube?

    Even worse, email (which takes up considerably less space and can be compressed to single digit percentages) is prime for third parties to resell to marketing and collection companies. They can mine the data to figure out what books you've ordered from amazon and barnes and noble. Determine which political internet sites or newsgroups you subscribe to. Analyze your buying habits. Mine for personal information to resell to identity thieves for a profit. It may make you feel good to trust that you abide by the law and have nothing to hide; but not everyone does the same. Seemingly innocuous information can be used for evil purposes like identity theft or political descrimination.

    Databases, like every technology devised by man, can be utilized for good or ill. Your right to privacy is a valuable part of your ability to persue happiness undeterred. Don't let big corporations or the government take that away without a fight.

    Beverly, MA
  • by skiflyer ( 716312 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:52PM (#18678809)
    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.

    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 the synch just rocks... I want it for my webdav lightning calendar, and I want it now... if anyone has any ideas how it can be accomplished I'd love to hear them.
  • by brunes69 ( 86786 ) <slashdot&keirstead,org> 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 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 cshay ( 79326 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:47PM (#18679757)
    I find gmail search to be the only way I can deal with my 50,000 messages. Thunderbird just hangs and I can't get Google Desktop to play nice with IMAP unless I open each and every message manually first. Yes, I'm an idiot.
    But seriously, has anyone been able to manage on the order of 50,000 messages with Thunderbird and do sophisicated searches that actually work?
  • 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 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."

  • by Lijemo ( 740145 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @03:25PM (#18680315)

    It's a critical mass sort of thing.

    Below a certain critical mass, it doesn't matter whether people use Outlook or rely entirely on a calender printed out on an index card, as long as you show up on time.

    Above a certain critical mass, people start relying on the times other people are marked as "busy" or "out of office", and if you don't use the system, you're likely to get double or triple booked for meetings.

    Of course, how many meetings you have in a week is a big factor as well. Here, we have multiple Agile projects going at once, and try to meet regularly on each for a short (nominally half an hour, but if there's only 10 minuites of content, then we all leave after 10 minuites) meeting on each. Some days I have no meetins, some days I have four; but I spend a weekly average of maybe 45min-1hr in meetings each day.

    If I didn't use the Outlook calender at work, I'd constantly be e-mailing people to ask to re-schedule meetings or explain why I can't attend, and then explain why the time wasn't blocked off in my calender if I wasn't going to be available. I'd be making everyone's life more difficult, including my own.

  • 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:Sorry... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by value_added ( 719364 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @03:48PM (#18680721)
    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, rewrite, extract or otherwise process any and all messages (including headers) using tools I've known for years; privacy and encryption. Should I go on []?

    Web apps, I think, are fine for novice users, occasional or on-the-road users, or for those with limited requirements. If you exclude certain fundamental issues like privacy and security, for example, you can, I suppose, say they work great. If that's the case, good for you. I don't fit into any of those categories, and flat out reject the premise of most web applications. Hardly a unique opinion.
  • Don't kid yourself. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jaseuk ( 217780 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @06:42PM (#18683147) Homepage
    Having wasted 2-3 years investigating open source alternatives to Microsoft Exchange I've finally given up.

    There is *no* open source exchange alternative that is worth bothering with, certainly none that have the level of finish as Microsoft exchange.

    Almost all Open Source exchange alternatives shoot themselves in the foot by either pricing the Outlook connectors above or close to the cost of Exchange or pay the outlook element lip service and not include all features and hope that everyone uses their crummy webmail app. Outlook is an excellent e-mail client, perhaps a bit bloated, but easy enough to use.

    Typical problems with open source exchange alternatives are:

    1. None or poor support for Nokia Phones / Windows Mobile PDAs.
    2. Use the abortion that is IMAP, absolutely slow, buggy and hopeless.
    3. Poor implementation of groupware functionality within Outlook.
    4. No optimisations for slow links / mobile.
    5. No reliable or efficent offline capabilities.
    6. Poor choice of backup / archiving add-ons.
    7. Poor LDAP / Active Directory support.
    8. Crummy management tools.

    This is really not worth debating, there can be no open source exchange alternative unless there is a credible Outlook alternative, which for the moment there isn't.


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