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Microsoft Mail
September 16, 2005 1:17 AM   Subscribe

Microsoft Mail is designed to replace Hotmail - and looks a lot like "Outlook Online". It will have to compete with Gmail's simplicity and Yahoo's (beta) functionality. Are desktop clients doomed?
posted by bobbyelliott (52 comments total)

 
No. "Discuss."
posted by grouse at 1:21 AM on September 16, 2005


Just "No", would do.
posted by NinjaPirate at 1:24 AM on September 16, 2005


It will have to compete with Gmail's simplicity and Yahoo's (beta) functionality.

It will also have to work on something other than Internet Explorer. If Microsoft can't even get their search engine to work on a non-IE browser, then I'm not holding my breath for their snazzy new mail website.
posted by Rothko at 1:26 AM on September 16, 2005


Heh. I wonder if anyone else remembers the hellish world of hurt that was 'Microsoft Mail' on the old MacOS.

LAN email servers, ho!

Seriously though, the UI looked rather cluttered. Time will tell, I guess.
posted by verb at 1:44 AM on September 16, 2005


There is no way I would use only a free webbased email-service. For starters, I want to control my backups.
posted by hoskala at 2:37 AM on September 16, 2005


Does Microsoft really care if it doesn't work on anything other than their browser? It is all about branding and it isn't as if you don't have other choices at this point.

From the developers blog, "Hotmail is also built to work with web browsers most geeks would consider dinosaurs. We realized the landscape was changing and we decided to do something about it. " So at least they are aware of it. With as many users as they have I'm sure that changes have to be made over time and done gradually at the risk of freaking out the customer base that is likely quite similar to AOL's.

Recycling the old Microsoft Mail name does bring back some horrible memories but will mean little to middle America computer user. That and I guess mMail just doesn't resonate.

Discuss.
posted by geekyguy at 2:51 AM on September 16, 2005


Mmmm, mail.
posted by NinjaPirate at 3:34 AM on September 16, 2005


Microsoft Mail? Who needs it?
Are desktop clients doomed? No.
posted by Joeforking at 3:43 AM on September 16, 2005


Just "No", would do.

I was too-subtly suggesting that posts ending with a Slashdot-style stupid leading question like this one are nearly as posts ending with "Discuss."

Discuss.
posted by grouse at 4:27 AM on September 16, 2005


"No"

(afternoon grouse)
posted by NinjaPirate at 4:48 AM on September 16, 2005


I wonder if anyone else remembers the hellish world of hurt that was 'Microsoft Mail' on the old MacOS.

Not Microsoft Mail!!!!!!!!! This wasn't only a curse on MacOS but on all Windows systems for awhile. My god what a glorious outrageous piece of garbage that was.
posted by melt away at 5:05 AM on September 16, 2005


Yes, I would voluntarily abandon my own domain's email that is stored only on my hard drive so I can use a service with ads that works nowhere fast enough to handle hundreds of messages that some of us get in a day, and where the mail is stored on somebody else's server, with the possibility that it may all go up in smoke one day and if not, may be unavailable due to a "system upgrade".

Oh yes, I would drop my desktop client in a heartbeat, just so I can be johnsmith9821@hotmail.com

(Why on earth did I write such a long sentence?)
posted by madman at 5:09 AM on September 16, 2005


Perhaps if you only have one email address & alot of time on your hands. Otherwise, no.
posted by password at 5:11 AM on September 16, 2005


hoskala, Freepops or Ypops might interest you. Lets you download mail from most of the free web based services, and read and save it on your PC. Works with Yahoo Mail and (ick) mail.com, among others.

If it wasn't for the fact that I've been using a Yahoo mail account for over 5 years for genealogy stuff (and it's all over a lot of related message boards) I'd ditch web based email entirely. That's the only reason I still use it. I had zero use for Gmail until they started offering POP3 access.

Verb: I miss my old PowerMac sometimes but I damn sure don't miss Microsoft Mail. EUW.
posted by keptwench at 5:35 AM on September 16, 2005


You know what I really wonder? Why did it take 2 years for anyone to actually start using Ajax? It has been here for quite a while.

Gmail comes out, and suddenly everything switches over to the same model.
posted by markesh at 6:10 AM on September 16, 2005


Maybe because a lot of yokels never paid attention to it due to its silly name. I have to say, I like to keep abreast of protocols, techniques, etcetera, but it wasn't till Google came out that I went DAAAAMN what is that sexy technology...
posted by cavalier at 6:29 AM on September 16, 2005


Or, what pundits would call, the 'Wow' factor.
posted by cavalier at 6:29 AM on September 16, 2005


Man, am I the only one sick of tagging as an "added functionality" on everything? I mean, it has some usefulness in social settings, but I don't want to link my email with everyone else's, and a decent search function is faster than trying to go through and make sure that you tag every goddamn email.
posted by klangklangston at 6:30 AM on September 16, 2005


I recently made the switch from a desktop email client to gmail and I'm pretty happy.

Pros:
- all my email is available to me anywhere
- does a better spam filtering job than my desktop client did
- i imagine google's storage backup system is better than mine (although I plan on setting up some automated backup to my local drive at some point)
- client keeps improving, but UI remains clean
- searching my archives is faster

Cons:
- it's free so I guess theoretically it could disappear tomorrow and there's nothing I could do about it
- can't sort by columns AFAIK (i.e. sort current mail by name or by subject opposed to by date)

I also haven't really noticed the ads.
posted by gwint at 6:38 AM on September 16, 2005


Why did it take 2 years for anyone to actually start using Ajax?

nev's comment in the original MetaFilter post about Ajax sums it up pretty well:
The only reason to aggressively pursue this technology now, as opposed to 2-3 years ago when it was first introduced, is that we're finally in an IE 6/Firefox/Safari world, rather than an IE 5/6/Netscape 4/6 world.

Plus there's no better way to convince your boss/client/salesperson that an approach is right than to say, "Google does it."
Also, as Mr. Garrett mentioned in his essay introducing the term,
I needed something shorter than “Asynchronous JavaScript+CSS+DOM+XMLHttpRequest” to use when discussing this approach with clients.
I recently made the switch from a desktop email client to gmail and I'm pretty happy.

My IMAP account has all of the pros you mention, plus a desktop clients, which is a plus for me, and none of the cons.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:48 AM on September 16, 2005


Are desktop clients doomed?

I sure as sh*t hope so. Every single one I've had to deal with has inevitably had inexplicable bugs (or "known issues") for which either (A) no fix or patch exists or (B) there is a patch, but all it does is change the error message (Thanks, MS!)

Ultimately, though, people should switch to webclients simply because it puts the sysadmin's emphasis on managing a good mail server (possible), instead of having to keep everyone's little desktop client happy (impossible and annoying).

Also, I'm sure sysadmins will be glad to stop giving The Talk to their users about How Their Messages Are Downloaded and Removed From The Server (which they never seem to understand anyway) and Why They Should Back Up Their Email (which they never seem to do anyway).
posted by afroblanca at 6:49 AM on September 16, 2005


Web-based email is fine I feel as a backup. I don't know that I like it as a primary account. I like having my mail available wherever I go - my mail server runs POP3 or IMAP, so I have that option - and I like that I can access the email with only a web browser (my mail server uses SquirrelMail). However, I do not want an email account that can't be accessed using a desktop client. I want to know that my settings, my mail, my contacts, etc. are all backed up locally. I want to have some level of control over mail filtering, folder creation, etc. I don't get this with a web-based account, no matter how fancy the interface is I'm not going to be happy with it. Mailto: links in my browser aren't going to automagically log into my mail website and start a new message yet, are they? Bayesian logic spam filter isn't there, or isn't customised to my own mail preferences? What, no newsgroup access? No ability to set up multiple accounts that can be checked simultaneously in the same interface? Then I don't want your damn email service.

Gmail I use as a second account because of the POP3 access. If they turned on IMAP I might use it as a primary account. I will not, however, willingly tie myself to only using an email account that can't be accessed via desktop client without some third-party hack, or can't be viewed online without also being forced to look at conspicuously-placed advertising; nor will I ever feel comfortable sending business-related email that ends with a crap animated advertisement link for the mail program or one of its affiliates.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:53 AM on September 16, 2005


caution live frogs :

All of the faults that you listed apply to the specific email providers that we have available to us now. What if there was a new online service that gave you all of the things you want? For example, it could allow you to download your preferences and mail, stored in some sort of compressed backup file. Also, if it were, say, a pay-only site, you probably wouldn't have to look at ads.
posted by afroblanca at 6:59 AM on September 16, 2005


Until the day when I am never offline, I don't see any good reason to stop using client-based email.

"Ajax"... neat, but neat doesn't cut it for me. I'm tired of the upgrade cycle -- got tired of it years ago. (BTW, if you think this somehow stops that cycle, you're fooling yourselves.)

My god what a glorious outrageous piece of garbage [MS Mail] was.

Sure. But how does that make it different from Outlook? MS Outlook is the single biggest reason that people nay-say regarding the figure of client-based email. It's a pathetic failure as a piece of software, and everybody knows it, and yet, everybody uses it.
posted by lodurr at 7:00 AM on September 16, 2005


... oh, and IMAP? I have POP accounts with six different providers, and exactly one of them supports IMAP. For whatever that's worth.
posted by lodurr at 7:03 AM on September 16, 2005


Number of times people in my office have lost all of their Mail and contacts due to (A) bugs in Mail clients, (B) failure to schedule backups, and (C) a lack of understanding of POP3, no matter how many times I explain it : too d*mn many to count

Number of times people in my office have lost mail and contacts due to an online mail provider : none, that I know of

As somebody who is occasionally forced into the role of sysadmin, my preference is obvious.
posted by afroblanca at 7:08 AM on September 16, 2005


I'd also have to chime in with a No.
posted by chunking express at 7:14 AM on September 16, 2005


All my email accounts are reachable via both web and client, and web access is, on every one of them, a last resort.

Then again I use Thunderbird and, as such, am satisfied with the client program.
posted by clevershark at 7:18 AM on September 16, 2005


I'm a big fan of the desktop client, it is simply more convenient. But after a few crashes and data loss, I use gmail to mirror my email content. So I use the desktop client primarily, but if I'm anywhere else I still have gmail with all my mails. And since I delete all the mail from outlook, it stays quick and responsive.

All I wish is that my POP3 mail from the company could be sent from gmail without that silly "via gmail" text. Give it to me as a premium feature, I'm paying for the ultra annoying flickr, I'd also pay for that.
posted by markesh at 7:20 AM on September 16, 2005


It seems a bit silly to cheer Microsoft Mail on the basis that it solves client-related problems, when said client-related problems are in Outlook and Outlook Express, which are made by the very same company that now makes the web-accessible product.

On a side note I'm not particularly encouraged by MSN's apparent inability to make Spaces pages display cleanly on Firefox, a browser which makes IE look like something most geeks would call a dinosaur (to borrow a phrase).
posted by clevershark at 7:25 AM on September 16, 2005


So far, almost everyone here has been talking about their email experience from a PERSONAL point of view. What about in a business environment? I'm sure that sysadmins would love to stop having to waste countless hours babysitting Outlook and Entourage, and that their respective companies would be happy to have them doing something more productive with their time.

Web-based email = less worry, hassle
posted by afroblanca at 7:27 AM on September 16, 2005


afroblanca writes "I'm sure that sysadmins would love to stop having to waste countless hours babysitting Outlook and Entourage, and that their respective companies would be happy to have them doing something more productive with their time."

You seem to be under the impression that MM will be a trouble-free undertaking, as opposed to another gateway for various worms and viruses. Have you learned nothing from the troubled history of Microsoft's server-side offerings?
posted by clevershark at 7:30 AM on September 16, 2005


Yes.

Reason: admin costs.

Meanwhile the picture is muddied by two things.

The current 'MS syndrome' where products with that brand can be simultaneously a) bloated, buggy, and expensive and yet b) pervasive.

Security / privacy concerns. This is an odd one. We're all willing to use a public voice system to discuss important business and personal matters but not a public text-based system.
posted by scheptech at 7:36 AM on September 16, 2005


gMail is the best ever. but i don't really have any email that i would be devastated if i lost, so the backup thing dosent really apply to me
posted by ackeber at 7:39 AM on September 16, 2005


No. But no.
posted by mazola at 7:43 AM on September 16, 2005


clevershark writes : You seem to be under the impression that MM will be a trouble-free undertaking, as opposed to another gateway for various worms and viruses. Have you learned nothing from the troubled history of Microsoft's server-side offerings?

As I said, I think that it is a mistake to use current implementations as evidence against the idea itself. That said, I think I am far more likely to choose a Google product over an MS one.
posted by afroblanca at 8:02 AM on September 16, 2005


Not to mention, afroblanca, most places I have worked for are interested in the branding identification that comes along with sending mail from the company's domain instead of branding Google/Yahoo/MSN/Foo. Now, I could be behind the curve since I only use Gmail as an archive for my mail, but I am fairly certain that anything sent from Gmail will come from a gmail.com addy. Again, I'm projecting personal preference, but I can't imagine anyone taking correspondence from an investment firm seriously when the addy is something like cindy_smith.megainvestments@gmail.com.

A free web-based service that allows users to customize domains, won't send ads as a footer to your message, is as responsive as a desktop client, and is as configurable as my desktop client may sound the death knell for desktop clients. I'm just not holding my breath.
posted by Suck Poppet at 8:11 AM on September 16, 2005


A free web-based service that allows users to customize domains, won't send ads as a footer to your message, is as responsive as a desktop client, and is as configurable as my desktop client may sound the death knell for desktop clients. I'm just not holding my breath.

As a free service, I'm not holding my breath. However, I could see that working fantastically as a pay service.

Business idea, anyone?
posted by afroblanca at 8:52 AM on September 16, 2005


I was just discussing this with someone this morning. I was saying how Google's real intention with gMail is most likely not some noble aspiration of giving free e-mail for a few text ads no one really sees. In fact, it is designed so that soon enough, they can sell gMail server software for use on an enterprise scale.

Would I love if my company ditched Outlook and went with a gMail style system in which all of my e-mails were auto-archived, and I never had to worry about my mail? Oh, I would be beyond love for such a system.

Applications for the net keep getting better. Eventually, data driven applications will be all browser based. We crapped on this years ago. But that was because browser based applications weren't ready for real-time. They aren't completely there yet, but they will be. And then all your databases and functions and such will all be built into your browser. And then all you'll need is to launch a program to play your games.
posted by benjh at 9:06 AM on September 16, 2005


Suck Poppet writes 'I am fairly certain that anything sent from Gmail will come from a gmail.com addy.'

"Now you can customize the 'From:' address on your outgoing messages to display another one of your addresses instead. Use any alias or email address that you own, but do all your sending from Gmail. Learn more"
posted by signal at 9:14 AM on September 16, 2005


Re: corporate environment. You guys are missing the fact that Microsoft Mail is, minus all the AJAX stuff, essentially the OWA (Outlook Web Access) client that companies with Exchange already use. Microsoft is just pushing this technology down to the public sphere, making it a commodity.

And you can all toot your horns about your rockin' desktop clients, but I imagine (I'd be curious to see stats about this) that a vast majority of the net populace uses a free, web-based service as their only "personal" email. Very few people I know beyond programmers and sysadmins have their own domain.
posted by mkultra at 9:28 AM on September 16, 2005


huh. Thanks, signal. It's been a while since I've looked at gmail. My stuff is auto-redirected so I log on every so often just to mark it all as read and archive it. It's indexing is quite a bit better than any desktop client so that and off-site back ups are my primary uses for it. That just may change--consider this skeptic's curiosity piqued.

As for being a for-a-fee business model, how different is this from most ISPs who support IMAP and offer web access via squirrelmail—other than maybe the added indexing and better interface? I'm sure you could negotiate a bulk account deal for substantially less than the ~$5/mo individual user email accounts go for at most ISPs.
posted by Suck Poppet at 9:29 AM on September 16, 2005


where the mail is stored on somebody else's server, with the possibility that it may all go up in smoke one day

Not to mention providing the Borg with a handy archive of all my personal communications to mine for commercial or other purposes. I realize the all-seeing-eye can already have its way with traffic passing through Central Command, but why make it even easier for them?

As for searching, Spotlight with Apple Mail (which works better and has more functionality in Tiger than it did in Panther) puts any web-based searching tool to shame.

Plus, if it was up to me, I wouldn't give Microsoft my extra french fries, let alone any more business than I have to. The only thing worse than an evil, monopolistic, privacy-violating behemoth is an evil, monopolistic, privacy-violating behemoth that can't do anything right.

The first webmail provider that can provide context-based auto-replies ("your message concerning [this dimension of my life] will be [answered, ignored, best addressed by visiting {this web page} or emailing/calling {this person}, or forwarded to an account I actually read every day]") will get me interested. And don't talk to me about giving me gigabytes of online storage. I have terabytes of online storage already. Thank you. But fuck off, Microsoft. You're so 1995.
posted by realcountrymusic at 9:35 AM on September 16, 2005


... Microsoft Mail is, minus all the AJAX stuff, essentially the OWA (Outlook Web Access) client that companies with Exchange already use. ...

So... are you saying that they use Exchange to drive the Microsoft Mail offering?

If so, it will be irrelevant to whether or not webmail replaces client-based email. Exchange is only slightly less of a disaster than Outlook.
posted by lodurr at 9:45 AM on September 16, 2005


Not to mention providing the Borg with a handy archive of all my personal communications to mine for commercial or other purposes. I realize the all-seeing-eye can already have its way with traffic passing through Central Command, but why make it even easier for them?

Don't worry, realcountrymusic, I'm sure that your tinfoil hat will protect you.
posted by afroblanca at 9:52 AM on September 16, 2005


OK, let's try to inject some objective facts into the debate.

Dislaimer: I am employed by Microsoft.

AJAX is a new name for an old technology. As it was mentioned already in the thread, the technology (especially the XMLHTTP object) has been used by Outlook Web Access for years before it suddenly became the hot "new" thing. I strongly suspect that the reason it became hot is because mozilla code reimplemented the XMLHTTP object (read: copied the interface and functionality exactly), and suddenly developers could build cool apps without having to acknowledge that Microsoft can occasionally create something cool. See this blog post by OWA development lead Jim Van Eaton for more XMLHTTP history.

Now, back to the subject at hand. The new Hotmail is not a rebranded OWA. It has different requirements and feature set, and is built separately. However the lessons learned by the OWA team have certainly been spread around the company. I've tried out the beta of new hotmail, and although it's markedly different from my OWA experience, I think it's a good step forward. I look forward to trying the new oddpost-based Yahoo mail, to see what they've done with it - OddPost was an incredible client and I am curious if yahoo added value to it or removed (as large companies are sometimes apt to do).
posted by blindcarboncopy at 1:21 PM on September 16, 2005


I imagine (I'd be curious to see stats about this) that a vast majority of the net populace uses a free, web-based service as their only "personal" email.

Absolutely. It's beyond the capabilities of 90% of users to configure a desktop client. Remember when you couldn't sign-up for web services using a free webmail account? Maybe you don't since this piece of snootyness quickly bit the dust. Within five years, it will only be the die-(and blow-)hards who use desktop e-mail.
posted by bobbyelliott at 1:32 PM on September 16, 2005


Well, every sysadmin I ever knew lived in mortal fear of an Exchange problem, the worst of all possible Admin nightmares. Of course they also understood the concept of job security...
posted by scheptech at 2:34 PM on September 16, 2005


This was on Digg. That's a bad sign for MeFi.

Yawn.
posted by sjvilla79 at 8:26 PM on September 16, 2005


I like downloading my mail. Very convenient for when I'm not connected (I go everywhere with my laptop). Plus, I can save it, and know that I have it and it doesn't matter if it's deleted from the server.

I also am perfectly capable of configuring my own POP or IMAP access, and I am no techie. You just, you know, fill in the blanks.
posted by jb at 10:07 PM on September 16, 2005


This was on Digg. That's a bad sign for MeFi.

OMG! You mean not every Metafilter post is a world-first? I'm resigning.
posted by bobbyelliott at 2:55 AM on September 17, 2005


bobbyelliott, I mean that Digg posts on MeFi are poo. That is all.
posted by sjvilla79 at 6:01 AM on September 17, 2005


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