Saul Hansell blogs about Brad Garlinghouse from Yahoo calls “Inbox 2.0″. I’m a little surprised the post is getting so much buzz, since the WSJ wrote about it a month ago. As I wrote then, “contact priority is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to
information that can be learned from looking at the context and
relationship of information stored within email.” I’m glad to see all the excitement, though, because this is at the core of what we focus on at ClearContext.
Marshall Kirkpatrick gets it right when he writes that “We’re not talking about the number of times people email you – we’re
talking about the percentage of times you open those emails, the
keywords used in them relative to your personal/work profile, there are
metrics so crazy we can hardly imagine that are available for
determining the importance of people in your life.”
A number of others are talking about the broader opportunity here – leveraging the information and context that exists within email to make interactions more powerful.
Larry Dignan – “Increasingly, social networking is looking like a feature more than a
business. There will be big ramifications to consider as social
networking becomes integrated into your everyday applications.”
Brad Feld – “The real data lives in the gazillions of Microsoft Exchange servers
that are distributed around the world and connected to this magical
thing called the Internet.”
Om Malik – “the relationship buckets (and the level of intimacy) are already predefined and have relevance.”
Don Dodge – “Most people don’t want to leave email and jump into a separate
application to collaborate on projects. Email is where they naturally
communicate and collaborate.”
There’s an incredible amount of stored relationship information within email that is currently not utilized. That information extends far beyond just the contacts, which is where the initial focus from Yahoo and Google lies, as they along with many others try to emulate the success of the model Facebook has utilized.
However, email is not the same as social networking, and people use it very differently. In email, prioritization of contacts and messages is important, but all it does is identify what information is most important for you to look at. To actually build a more powerful system, you need tools to efficiently manage that information, and provide context for your information and interactions.
We’ve been working on prioritizing contacts and messages for a few years at ClearContext. It’s an interesting problem and we’re glad to see a lot more attention being paid to this area. What we realized a while back, though, was that the real value lies not in the prioritization itself, but in doing interesting things with that information. Combining all of that data within the context of email (and paying attention to what people are actually DOING in the client) provides the ability do things with email that are a lot more intelligent than simply displaying a message. With ClearContext IMS we’ve focused on combining information from a few silos – email, tasks, and appointments. However, there are a lot more silos to tackle, both inside and outside the email world.
Email is not going to replace or become like Facebook or LinkedIn. Those sites provide a good platform for certain types of interactions as well as linking together many different chunks of the “social graph.” However, each individual’s personal “social graph” lives within email. And not only does the contact information live within email, so does the CONTEXT information. Intelligently using that information in conjunction with advanced interfaces on the client side will make the entire email experience more powerful and productive for people. And done right, it will also make people’s experience with any email/contact based site or application more powerful, because it will be driven from a set of rich profiles full of deep context, not just a list of names. That’s the evolution of email, not just a better Inbox.