EmailTray Universal Smart Email Notifier

November 22, 2010

What Facebook Can Do to Win the New Email War vs Google

While both Google and Facebook can take the following advice on how to satisfy email users who want to reduce email overload, big company theory says that the requisite product manager for at least one of the companies will take off early for Thanksgiving, leaving his/her counterpart to design in the following necessary elements that email users will need to combat information overload going forward. I will present the elements as a mild critique of Facebook’s email announcement last week:

1) Facebook Email Needs a Smart Sorting Algorithm: Most of your priority email will not be trivial comments made by friends on Facebook walls. It will be from business people whom you specifically don’t connect with on Facebook. Nobody in the business world who connects on Facebook only with friends and family (100-200 connections) will see much benefit from having a universal Inbox that sorts mail from only their friends into a “Top Priority” folder.

To that end, EmailTray sorts emails based on a smart algorithm that looks at your past behavior towards senders, other EmailTray users behavior toward senders and whether a sender is in your Outlook address book or you were at a sender’s domain recently. Facebook needs a smart algorithm like this, not knowledge about whether a business email is coming from a family member or close friend (because it won’t be coming from either).

2) Facebook Email Needs a Notifier That Works When Browsers are Closed: EmailTray operates when browsers and Outlook are closed. Only Gmail has a notifier that also does this and we can be sure this Gmail notifier will soon be “smart” in that it will allow users to ask that only “Priority Inbox” mail be sent to the notifier for voice or pop-up alerts. EmailTray already has this and it sorts and alerts you on priority messages from all accounts, not just Gmail accounts.

3) Facebook Email Needs to Ensure Read and Deleted Messages are Marked Read and Deleted at Their Source: When someone reads and/or deletes an email in EmailTray, it will be marked read and/or deleted at its source (in Outlook, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo or Hotmail). This would be critical functionality for Facebook or Google to have in a messaging center. Without this, email users will not bother to process email from all their accounts in Facebook because they would still have to go back to Gmail or Outlook to REDELETE or mark AGAIN as read the same emails they already deleted or marked as read at Facebook. Facebook said nothing about being able to do this yesterday. They (and Google engineers) need to look at this because nobody will want to have to duplicate their efforts in processing email.

4) Facebook Email Needs to Authenticate Email (Anti-Phishing Functionality): Facebook has said nothing about authenticating email as having been actually sent from particular major senders like PayPal or Amazon or LinkedIn. EmailTray does this authentication and sends phishing attempts to the spam box with a warning to the user. This is critical because, for instance, 13% of emails that say they’re from Amazon are not really from Amazon.

Where Facebook has an advantage right now is that email users want to see social network photos with their incoming email. The popularity of xobni, Gist and our EmailTray program (formerly SenderOK) attest to the desire of email users to see who’s sending them messages and learn more about them (sometimes leading to the email user connecting with the email sender on Facebook).

Facebook also has an advantage over Gmail in that the idea of having 3 separate Inboxes is slightly better than the new Gmail Priority Inbox solution that can charitably be described as a 2 Inbox solution.

But, as noted in factor #1 above, neither company has invested in a seriously smart algorithm like the one we use at EmailTray (which has 4 Inboxes).

Smart Email Client

EmailTray Smart Email Notifier (Almost a new Email client)

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July 25, 2009

Black and White Email Turns to Color – Like TV in the 1960s

There are old hands reading this who remember when television was entirely black and white. Monochrome television first appeared well before World War Two but few considered buying a TV set then because radios were in the middle of their Golden Age at the time with incredibly popular programming such as the Green Hornet, the Lone Ranger and Fibber McGee & Molly.  It is true, however, that black and white TV was successfully debuted in the USA in 1927 (see news clipping below) and FDR was televised making a speech at the World’s Fair of 1939. The Germans, Soviets, British and French had all been in a TV “arms race” involving espionage and sabotage…the bombing of Pearl Harbor was actually televised by CBS…Hitler televised from the Eiffel Tower during World War Two after he captured Paris.

The thing was, only “early adopters” had TV sets during this time, which would be similar to the 1980s for personal computers. You can read more about this on a great site called TVHistory.TV

This situation changed drastically after World War Two ended. Americans had spent the war going to the local cinema to see news reels of the troops in action. They now wanted that visual experience in their homes. In 1946, televisions were already a staple in bars and clubs, where major boxing championships played out to hundreds of thousands. In 1947, Kraft Television Theater, Meet the Press and The Howdy Doody Show became major black and white hits.

CBS tried to go straight into manufacturing color TVs in the late 1940s but their attempt didn’t jive with the fact that their proprietary technology did not work with the 10 million black and white sets already in use by Americans by 1949. RCA had a huge Trinitron color TV on the market in the late 40s (it had 3 cathode ray tubes representing the primary colors) but it was only for eccentric millionaires to gawk at and there was still little in terms of color programming. It wasn’t until after the Korean War subsided in 1953 that a standard was approved that would allow programming to work with both new color sets and existing black and white TVs.

In 1954, the first “mass market” color TVs from RCA cost what would be the equivalent of buying a car today.  Few people bought them, even when they could afford it as there was still very little programming for them.  David Sarnoff, the Russian immigrant chairman of RCA, remained in the hot seat with his board of directors until 1964 as all other companies that tried to manufacture and market color TVs gave up.

Dragnet, the famous TV show about LA detectives, was the first to broadcast a color film episode in December 1953.  Nobody noticed because the new RCA sets weren’t yet on the market. In June 1955, President Eisenhower was filmed on a color TV broadcast. Rich people noticed that. But it wasn’t until RCA color TV prices fell and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color premiered in 1961 that the masses started to go out and buy color technology. In 1962, the popularity of the “colorcasted” Flintstones and Jetsons guaranteed that color TV was here to stay. By 1966, the NBC peacock was announcing that 100% of NBC programming would be in color. Sarnoff, the father and champion of color TV, would die 5 years later at the age of 80.

Let’s fast forward to 2009.  Black and white email inboxes have been the standard since most of us started reading email in inboxes 20 years ago (thanks to Compuserve).

But it doesn’t have to stay that way and, if the above history teaches anything, it won’t.

Viktor Tatarov, CEO of the WebCEO company that helps webmasters tweek and monitor the hits they receive on websites, has developed a means by which color corporate icons appear in the inbox of major email programs whenever an SPF or DomainKey authenticated email arrives from that company’s domain(s).

These colorful “anti-phishing” icons, often the favicons that appear in the URL toolbar of web browsers, now appear in the email inbox list panel of users of the SenderOK Email Plug-in, which is downloadable at SenderOK.com. This now works in Microsoft Outlook as well as the webmail programs Hotmail/Live, Gmail and Yahoo. Only reputable companies, not spammers, will be allowed to have their emails appear with their corporate icons.

This will be a bolt from the blue for email marketers pursuing the Holy Grail called “Email Deliverability”. With SenderOK icon presentation, spam email will be separated from serious business email literally as black and white is to color. Email that comes from known reputable senders will be saved from the spambox, at least long enough for users to decide whether to unsubscribe or verify that they personally consider that otherwise reputable sender to be issuing spam. SenderOK can also act like a Nielsen rating box, letting senders know about the anonymous behavior of users in terms of how many users opened their email and how many deleted without reading.

Google has just announced that they will be doing something similar with Gmail Anti-Phishing Keys and their new newsletter unsubscribe service, but they are still thinking in terms of black and white…for now.

Take a look at the future which is here and now. Whether Tatarov and SenderOK will get all the credit or whether Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL will develop and implement similar technology on their own, doesn’t change the fact that the email inbox, like television, will after a 20 year delay, finally move from black and white to color.

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