Email 2.0: Shortmail and the Twitterisation of emailing

Email, that stalwart of internet communication, may be going out of fashion. Email has been around pretty much for four-decades, pre-dating the web. It’s the old man of the internet and has not evolved significantly. Fundamentally, the way we email each other has remained the same for decades.

But email needs to evolve. The number of messages we get these days has increased exponentially, and there is no end in sight. There will be a time (and for many this time has arrived) where it will be impossible to cope.

There has been innovation. Google’s Gmail, for example, has created conversations, priority mail and most companies have beefed up spam filtering techniques. This has helped, but there is a feeling that a fundamental rethink and remodel is needed to solve the problem.

One company is promising such a rethink. A US-based startup, Shortmail, has taken a positively “twitter-approach” to email. Dave Troy, the company’s CEO, has created the ingenious new messaging service which is looking to replace unfocused emails with decisive content that is limited to a 500-character message. Its mission is to simplify your life with a “meaningful evolution of email”.

Dave’s Story

Two years ago, Dave Troy became irritated at the state of his unmanageable email accounts. Dave is a busy entrepreneur and receives hundreds of emails daily — sifting through them became a nightmare. He then wondered what it would be like if emails were shorter and what the effect would be if the user was forced to send emails with a limited number of characters. This experiment evolved into Shortmail which now reportedly has 25 000 active users.

Changing the Norm

Email is a four-decade old system which is used and abused globally. Ninety-five percent of all email traffic is spam; it is Dave’s hope that Shortmail will assist in remedying the junk mail of the world. One of the challenges Shortmail relishes is creating a new system which can deal with the endless mail clients, spam botnets and character encoding.

Some users may lament the loss of their private email address, but Dave is quick to address this.

“One thing we want to do is to tie back into some notion of identity. Some people don’t like the notion of a public e-mail address because they’re concerned about spam. But convert any Twitter username into an e-mail address — a fundamentally public e-mail address — you then have a public forum”.

Signing in

Joining Shortmail is an exercise in simplicity itself. The application uses the Twitter platform to register users, a Shortmail address is given and sending concise emails then becomes the name of the game. Shortmail above all works and it works well. Attachments cannot be added; therefore receiving spam becomes a distant memory.

Plans for the Future

An iOS app is planned to launch with the release of iOS 5 later this year. With the accessibility of the Apple platform and a wireless connection, the potential for Shortmail’s expansion becomes immense. Shortmail has also recently partnered with Sparrow, a Mac OS X mail client — this is another step toward creating a transparent layer which the application can operate within. As the user becomes accustomed to shorter emails inside a known environment, the system will simply evolve into the hidden client which guides the way we respond to others.

The web platform is intuitive, the public email system guards against spammers and the 500-character limit will change the way we communicate. Visit Shortmail today and claim your stake in the future of email.

I managed to discuss these points with Dave himself, the transcript of my brief interview can be found below:

I then took our conversation public, this means that anyone can view it on the Shortmail public forum:


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