I’ve been a fan of Xoopit so I guess I am a bit surprised that Yahoo! has bought it. Xoopit, for me, was the future of email. Or a part of it.
(For those of you who haven’t used it, or those who didn’t “get” it, Xoopit is a plugin for Gmail—for others, too, but Gmail is the best working one—which extends Gmail’s functionlity: better search for attachments, dovetailing with Facebook so you can see who you’re talking to on Gmail etc.)
Xoopit, for me, was/is a way to push email beyond being one channel of communication to being part of a single channel of communication. In other words, I believe it will make no sense to future generations that we have different applications for communicating with people.
Right now we have SMS, phone, email, Facebook, LinkedIn, twitter, face time, and then within those we may have several accounts, depending on whether we’re at work etc etc… This does not make sense.
Some of us would argue that it makes sense if we want to keep our work friends in LinkedIn, and our family friends on Facebook. Yes, but those shouldn’t have to be product choices, surely?
We didn’t use separate postal services to communicate with different kinds of people we knew, or different phones for different kinds of friends? (Well, OK, we may have kept a work phone and a personal phone, but I don’t see many people doing that these days.)
What we are really looking for is a way to organize our increasingly complex social, work and family lives into a coherent web that allows us to control how we communicate with them—not dictated by service, device, product, but by our preferences.
For example, I want to communicate with friend A via SMS because that suits me (and her). I should be able to send that SMS through pretty much any device I want—phone, voice, computer (email, twitter, Facebook etc), TV, pigeon, whatever. It shouldn’t matter to me.
Similarly, the method and format that Friend A receives the message in should be her choice. It shouldn’t be an issue that I sent it as an SMS. She should be able to receive however, and wherever she wishes—guided by whatever factor is important to her (priority—’let everything from Jeremy through’—or cost—‘don’t send me anything by SMS because I’m on roaming, but data is free’ or device—“I’m only carrying my no-data cellphone so route all important communications thro via SMS”.)
Right now this is only a dream, for the most part. Why? Because we’re still stuck in a world of platforms, packages and a lack of understanding of why and how people communicate.
We don’t love twitter because it’s twitter. We love it because it opens all sorts of new doors for sharing information and experiences. And because it’s an open platform, which means we can control how we send and receive.
But we’re still some way off.
Some way off a world where I decide who I communicate with and how I communicate with them, instead of being nudged into one or another walled garden. I may want to talk to Friend A about their holiday on Facebook, but about the new project we’re working on via Gmail. I should be able to do that however I want, and from the same place, and she should be able to decide how she receives and reponds to those emails.
Right now we’re stuck in these trenches dug for us by the creators of the services.
A truly open system will be one where we control these channels.
Xoopit was just a small step, but it had potential. Being able to see whether someone I was talking to on email had a Facebook account—and, if they did, being able to see their profile picture—was great for me, as I communicate often with people I’ve not met, and who often have first names that aren’t always gender specific. Always good to know.
Imagine if that service extended to LinkedIn, twitter and others. Gmail would become a console that would enable me to manage and extend my networks more efficiently than occasional trawling through the network services pages themselves.
And finding attachments? Sounds trivial but it made finding stuff easy, and turned Gmail into an online repository of files I could—relatively—easily share and pass on to others.
Small shifts, but in the right direction.
The chatter on TechCrunch is that Google didn’t buy because it’s launching Wave.
Maybe true, but great though Wave sounds it doesn’t, I think, move us in the direction of open channels. Instead, it sounds a lot like Google wasn’t interested in Xoopit because it was taking Gmail in the wrong direction—into the world of open channels—when Wave is designed to keep us in the trenches.