By John Gruber
Atoms: We are not selling shoes this time…
Matthew Thomas on web-based email interfaces. Mail Models, part 1:
The scenario: A customer calls you to his computer, complaining that the e-mail message he was writing wouldn’t send, and now it has disappeared. He is unable to explain the problem in greater detail.
The underlying design flaw here is the existence of Webmail, trying to put a usable e-mail interface inside a Web browser window.
Webmail and other “Web applications” will always be very difficult to use, relative to native equivalents — because they appear inside a browser window (causing absurdities such as scrolling “Send” buttons), because constant server round-trips to update the UI make them them disgustingly slow and flickery, and because they rely on a platform-independent interface abstraction (HTML forms). Webmail is only as popular as it is (and, indirectly, keeps me employed) because there isn’t a less execrable alternative which provides the same roaming ability.