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Why people really prefer webmail...

... Because to be a decent mail client these days, you have to include a whole freaking browser -- http://www.mozilla.org/products/thunderbird/ -- one way or another.

(Argh so I can run Mozilla and keep the mail client in memory at all times or run Firefox/Thunderbird and keep *two* copies of gecko/whatever-the-renderer-is-these-days in memory whenever I'm both reading mail *and* not shutting down my browser to do it.  But of course, we could have library hell.  At least it's not quite like Sun giving up and telling everyone they should ship their apps embedded into a full copy of the JVM each, as at least JPL did -- http://mars.telascience.org/home/ ...  Which itself wouldn't be bad, if the JVM were the size of http://www.withintent.biz Intent... or at least only the size of Firefox.)

I will try to refrain from arguing with Mac people, and only point out that the Amiga split the difference by both attempting to ensure backwards-compatibility at a lower level (Remember, it's all about degrees of abstraction, right?  But the programs with assembler-level hacks are usually the good ones?) and only shipping improvements that were inarguably technically "correct."  Of course, this soon proved an inscalable problem, which is why Commodore was about to give up and consider NT right before they blew their proverbial face off.

Anonymous Peon
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The addendum to this was that, in the handheld space, fat clients arguably still have some appeal, since the browser is still the single fattest process that can be running, and depending what device you've got, you might only be able to load one instance (singletasking). 

Because the different form-factor (and different bandwidth-availability) forces rewrites and new expectations, users might not be so upset if their mail client offers good UI and rapid searching but does not parse every single picture-of-a-cat or eCardStationeryFrenchLetter received.

Until we come up with some sort of system to freely network-deploy applications to PDAs and phones, too, anyway; a properly fast Mozilla-in-hand is pretty much already here, though the way weird things tend to happen, something http://rebol.com/ Rebol-alike just might supplant The Browser (like SMS is supplanting email?!), or The Browser might supplant entertaining pipe dreams like Rebol, whether or not it grows into something more resembling it.  (It was supposed to, way back around the time of 'applets'... whoops.  Anyone else having more trouble running applets in a browser now than they did in 1998?)

Anonymous Peon
Wednesday, June 16, 2004


What?

I just read that twice and I still don't really understand what you're saying
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

In the API article, Joel espouses his preference for "real" mail clients, and can't imagine why people tolerate webmail.  I give an explanation for why people tolerate webmail (the 'most important' features, as regard actually displaying mail, are built into the browser, which is probably already loaded), then digress as to where Commodore did/didn't avoid bitrot and rewrites vs. other platforms*, and whether "network applications" or "real software" will carry the day on whichever becomes more popular of PDAs/palmtops or smartphones.

*To understand the Amiga thing, you have to remember what computers were like before everything was measured in the hundreds of MHz and could multitask (or display colors).  See, back when Apple was whipping developers to write 'safe' code, and breaking unsafe code revision-to-revision (or not, as one Mac booster has already complained), and Microsoft was still just happy to have something to sell at all, Commodore "solved" the problem by being the proverbial light years ahead, and usually providing OS services (library calls, etc) that were both 'standard' (destined to be supported in later releases) and faster/better than what you would've had anywhere else. 

I'm half-kidding, and plenty of stuff did break between revisions (a moderate fraction "everything" is about to break for the finally-reborn OS4.0, because part of Commodore's compatibility-preserving involved keeping the hardware standard, and suddenly everything that banged the chipset directly, even in sanctioned ways, is going to fail to run on a generic PowerPC machine with a Radeon in it), but point is that if you do it right the first time, there's less incentive to do it over. ;)

(Erm, and to digress more, you could argue that Commodore separated things into two classes: games, which were expected to just whack the hardware in any way possible and probably would break, and 'real software' -- like the beloved Lightwave and so on -- which should use the OS nicely and just work, which they mostly did.  This worked out pretty well, because gamers were just shoving the disks in the drive and not thinking about upgrading the OS or ROMs anyway; now MS is trying a similar split, where the XBox is the equivalent of that A500 with Kickstart 1.3 installed, and Longhorn systems will be the shiny new A4000s... but like the 4000, will it be compelling enough, or a halfway-there that spent too much time in committee?)

Anonymous Peon
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Why do people prefer webmail?

1. It's a good enough solution.

2. You can use it from any PC. Not everyone sits at the same PC all day and then takes it home with them. Even for savvy users moving email between home and office is complicated.

3. Nothing to install, nothing to update.

4. Boss can't read or own your emails.

Once you start using webmail from work to avoid snooping bosses and sys admins, it's a no-brainer to continue using it from home, airport, hotel, etc.

There's more to usability than pretty interfaces.

Greg Jorgensen
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Webmail is unusable for me at work because our proxy has been configured to filter "evil concepts" such as sp*rt, p*rn - even subjects about email (go figure). Since spam often contains lifestyle-related subject headings, I'm usually blocked.

The same problem (rarely) affects my access to JoS. If a subject line offends the proxy, I'm blocked for however many weeks it takes for that thread to drop off the bottom.

Paul Sharples
Thursday, June 17, 2004

Why do people prefer webmail? Because the only other alternative is to RDC into your own home base, and most places you go don't allow installing an RDC client, and have everything blocked except port 80, but they all have a webbrowser running, so you put up with the horrible delays over the most crappy connections because it is the only game in town.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, June 17, 2004


Paul, you have just doomed yourself to maliciois/mischievious uses kicking you out of here at whim.

KC
Thursday, June 17, 2004

Still here!

Paul Sharples
Thursday, June 17, 2004

Paul, you are so fucked. Really. :-))

Nicky
Thursday, June 17, 2004

I guess what I wanted to get across here was the idea that all 'good' mail clients non-mutt effectively include a browser, therefore 'browser' is a subset of 'mail client,' therefore it turns out to be more freakin' resource-efficient to use just the browser (assuming you use your machine for browsing on a fairly constant basis) even absent the obstacles mentioned.

"At least" the bulk of IE gets loaded once; using Firefox + Thunderbird loads twice as much "Mozilla" as even loading Mozilla would.  (At least on my platform of choice, the two processes aren't sharing much lib-wise beyond GTK and libnspr.)  But if I *did* just run Mozilla, I'd end up with a somewhat huger process even while not reading mail, and for being a single process, now I can have both my open tabs *and* my unfinished mail blown away by an OOM condition, which, for the size, will occur with slightly more assumed frequency than if I compose all my mails in a webmail form in a Firefox tab.

[This is not to say I wouldn't rather be using Mozilla products than IE, only to observe that the Moz team admit they shot the food with integration but possibly haven't cottoned to the secondary issue with, er, dis-integration.  Meanwhile, as regards memory consumption, my mistake is abusing tabbed browsing to keep 4 windows of 16 tabs each, where I previously would've had 4 windows of 1 page each.]

Good question:  How many people actually care about being able to read HTML mail with full prettiness?  Having given up and gone to webmail, I only throw open Thunderbird to "read" newsgroups, where libjpeg is of more import than actual HTML support.

Anonymous Peon
Thursday, June 17, 2004

Wow Paul, I feel your pain. My work does "only" URL regex blocking, which is evil and stupid enough.

For instance, I can't go to linux-usb.com because they block URLs containing "x-". How dimwitted is THAT?

Klodd the Insensitive
Thursday, June 17, 2004

By the way, Paul, that e-mail was not meant as an e-mail, I wanted to post the comment above. D'oh. Sorry.

Klodd the Insensitive
Thursday, June 17, 2004

Just for fun, I'm currently running Firefox and Thunderbird. Firefox is using 22MB and Thunderbird is using 5MB.

Given a 512MB DIMM for $52 on PriceWatch, Firebird and Thunderbird are using $2.74 worth of RAM. Or, less than I spent on lunch.

I think I can deal with running both.

Fred
Thursday, June 17, 2004

Hmm, just realized I left Thunderbird up, so I can give my numbers for FreeBSD 5:
FireFox has grown to 118/61 ("Size/Resident"), though don't ask how many windows/tabs that's up to now (0.9 is handling well).

Thunderbird (3 news servers, let's say 70,000 headers across groups each) is 48/10.

I'm really not just kvetching about RAM, but also disk, and general design principle.  I mean, hey, even if this passes for efficient, wouldn't making some chunk of the renderer a possibly-sharable .so still be even *more* efficient?  Then I wouldn't even be sad if someone sends me a Flash email, not that I personally care.

Just think about it in light of Mozilla.org's schizophrenia as to what they are/aren't doing, and what Gecko (is it still Gecko?) is/isn't supposed to be on a given day, and you may understand why I'm "amused."  (Also remember how annoying redundant builds are to a BSD or Gentoo head.)

Anonymous Peon
Friday, June 18, 2004


Although I like (and sometimes use) Thunderbird, I can't understand why a decent mail client needs to occupy so much of my machine's RAM--I'm running it at the moment and it's 22 MB.

Eudora Light 3.01 is still my primary mail client after many years. It's small, fast, free, and does what I need it to do. For me, webmail is my 'catch-all' account that I can access from anywhere in a pinch, but the interaction is too clunky and slow for everyday use.

Not that anyone asked.

Vic
Friday, June 18, 2004

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