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Web mail gets cooler, but best yet to come

india Updated: Sep 14, 2008 21:06 IST
N Madhavan
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Last week, Google Inc turned 10. While search remains the grand thing about Google, what amazes me about this company is the way it has stolen the thunder on e-mail, which remains the workhorse of the Internet.

I already had about half-a-dozen Web mail accounts when I switched to Gmail, and it is time to look back on the e-mail universe and take stock.

Gmail scored because it was future ready and offered two breath-taking features when it hit the ground running. I am talking about the virtually unlimited storage (7 gigabytes now and counting) and the Web-based chat that did away with the need to download a separate messaging/chat software.

This was a marked jump from Hotmail, which made Indian boy Sabeer Bhatia famous for the millions he got from Microsoft. But Bill Gates botched up the acquisition because he was not future ready. I recently revived my Hotmail (also called http://mail.live.com) account after it had lapsed because I nearly stopped using it — only to stop again. While it has matched Gmail in many respects, it has only played catch-up.

But I retain my Yahoo mail, which has three advantages. Being a media company, a Yahoo account gets you access to far better content by more organised sourcing, in which the rest are still playing catch up. Yahoo also has a customisable look and feel with colours and stationery, which works if you are writing a birthday mail or love letter. Above all, I find organising mails into folders a big plus on Yahoo (Google wants you to search, not sort, because that’s how it makes money from search ads).

However, I switched back to ‘Yahoo Mail Classic’ because Yahoo’s catch-up with Gmail in offering Web-based chats and giving a neater view resembling Microsoft’s Outlook (where you can quickly view mails without opening each of them by splitting the screen) are great ideas, but I find the speed slow and the service jerky. But a Yahoo account now offers a free Web mail-to-SMS facilities that makes the account really worth it. Newbies also can get cooler sounding Ymail IDs.

I still retain an ID from Mail.com because it offers something unique to many — a domain ID that you can choose…such as consultant.com, techie.com.com, journalist.com and indiamail.com. It is easier to get your firstname@whatever ID on Mail.com.

I doubt if Indian domains like Rediff and the recently launched In.com be able to match email innovations that the global giants have. The next battleground would be video and audio mails delivered easy on the Web, which would be as cool as what SMS is to the mobile phone. Now, who will win that game?

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