Webmail.app follow-up

I came back from a weekend camping trip to find that my post about WebMail.app got a lot of attention: TUAW, Hawk Wings, and MacUser, for starters.

Some people got what I was trying to do with it, and some didn't. The idea got passed around a bit, so a few commenters probably didn't read my original post. That's not a big deal, but I did want to clear up a few points that weren't obvious from what I did write.

I don't hate Apple Mail.

I didn't say anything about disliking or replacing Apple Mail. Mail is my primary mail client, and there's plenty about it that I like. I just use both, since I like GMail better for viewing mailing lists.

WebMail.app was not a mission statement for the web.

I like rich local clients. I don't think that apps like WebMail are the future of desktop apps.

I don't think that cloning WebMail.app for any given website/web app will necessarily be a good idea. Sometimes it will, but if you could benefit from system-specific GUI features or services like Spotlight, CoreImage, AddressBook integration, control over data backup, etc, then just another browser window won't help you. For instance - I can't think of any reason to move flickr browsing to a mini-browser like WebMail. I don't need to avoid distraction when I'm using flickr - I'm already distracted.

Also, I'm not qualified to expound on the future of the web, so let's not get ahead of ourselves there.

I wanted it to be a bad browser.

This was the part that got people who didn't read what I wrote in the original post about distraction. Yes, you could get almost the same effect by using real browsers with their toolbars off, but the whole point was to make it hard to distract yourself on the web.

There's a fine line where if you add any more features, you're re-implementing a real browser, and that's counterproductive. We can disagree on the position of that line, but I feel I hit it pretty close. For instance, if you want tabs, I think you should probably just use a real browser. And for my purposes, not being able to open links in other browsers is an important feature.

It wasn't a product announcement.

I wrote it to avoid distraction - I'm not going to be supporting it, adding features, nor will I even work very hard to get an icon. I suggest using the icon mentioned in the Hawk Wings post about it. That's probably what I'll do if I ever get around to it.

Some people suggested features that wouldn't make it more distracting, including handling other web mail sites, doing the right thing with uploads for attachments, importing contacts, a better login interface (actually, I don't get why you'd care about that), and using newer WebKit builds for better compatibility. I don't plan to do any of these, but you're welcome to. If anyone wants to use the name and take it in that direction, I'm OK with that - let me know.

I do use it, though, so if it ever breaks on a new system and there's no good replacement, I'll get it working again.

I have heard from at least one person who's building a similar app and has done some more interesting things with it, so when I find out more about that, I'll pass along a link. (But I'm not sure if it will be free or open source.)

It was super easy.

Now that I've addressed most of the criticisms that I wanted to, I want to ask that if you like this app, please reserve your praise for the Web Kit team at Apple - it took me months to realize that I wanted this app, but only minutes to build it because of all their hard work. It really was basically the demo app, and not even the one at the end of the talk. Thanks!


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