As software goes, e-mail is almost socialist: From each according to his ability, to each whether or not he needs it.
Here's where e-mail's socialism turns from strength to weakness: It doesn't matter if the message comes from a spammer hawking Viagra, your wife asking you to pick up some wine, your boss telling the company that Monday is a holiday, or a client asking for a meeting at his office at 11 a.m. In today's inboxes, all e-mail messages are equal.
That even the most tech-savvy among us are unable to cope indicates an underlying problem: E-mail has become a crutch, a way of passing the buck. Want to make an appointment? That's 10 messages back and forth. Then there are corporate updates, birthday announcements, forwarded jokes, and (if you're me) the occasional amorous ditty.
So mankind is in need of a solution to this problem. Is there a market for this? To quote the same article in CNN,
According to the Radicati Group, a market research firm, there are about 1.2 billion e-mail users and 1.8 billion active e-mail accounts worldwide. And in much of Asia and Latin America, Internet usage is still low. When those people show up in full force, e-mail traffic is going to increase exponentially.And to get the size of the market from another recent GigaOm article
The Radicati Group, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based research company, recently released a study showing that the number of worldwide email users will increase to almost 1.9 billion by 2013 compared with over 1.4 billion in 2009. Radicati projects that worldwide email traffic will reach 507 billion messages per day by 2013, almost double the 2009 figure of 247 billion messages per day.
What can be an approach to solve this problem? From the same article
In reality, of course, some are more equal than others. Spam, alerts, and calendar items all need to be treated separately. A smart inbox would -- all in one interface -- catch spam in junk filters, display the wine reminder in an IM, move company news to an RSS feed, and intelligently negotiate appointment requests with your calendar in the background.Hmm, a problem that needs a solution. Why did I start thinking of this. Two words -- Google Wave. Will that solve this problem? Probably will address that in a separate article. But is this the only option out there. Not really. Some others of interest seem to be Postbox, SenderOk (division of WebCEO), Xobni, Zimbra etc.
The feature of Postbox that caught my eye was the to-do tagging. This seems to give me an ability to add task related comments to my email. Have to check that out.
SenderOk seems to have some cool features such as the ability to sort email according to your past behavior and the behavior of others in the network. Algorithms mark received email into either VIP category that need to be addressed asap or in regular category that can be ignored for a while. They also seem to provide social networking profiles in the email header pane. They also claim to provide real time anonymous statistics to companies on what really happens to their email and whether they can reach people another way (such as starting a conversation via the social networking portal inside the email header pane). Interesting.
Have to check the above approaches out.