Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Webmail? The choice is not that easy!

When I first arrived in New Zealand I opened up an internet account with Ihug as it was the closest operator to where I was living (a very small office on Symonds Street). My e-mail address was of course my I used at first Microsoft Outlook Express, later on Pegasus Mail and then Outlook. I enjoyed using Outlook as first and foremost I could compose e-mails offline, which in the age of dial-up was a big plus. I could also utilise Fonts and Formatting tools available from Winword and use other features like the Calender and Tasks function. However, I didn't have the opportunity to switch Internet providers as I would loose my e-mail address unless I keep my account with Ihug. I then realised that I would rather switch homes and my telephone number than loosing my e-mail address. Needless to say I felt stupid but talking to fellow students or friends I realised that it I was not alone and it is quite unusual to change a well used e-mail address. Anyway, I wanted to feel free to change my Internet provider if necessary and therefore wanted to switch to a webbased e-mail programme.

Firstly I looked at probably the most available - Hotmail! However, despite Microsoft's promise to deliver a better and brighter future (Balmer's words!) I couldn't get over the fact that it only allows for a mailbox not bigger than 2mb!? What a disgrace! In the times of photo- and filesharing, Powerpoint presentations and HTML e-mails this is ridiculously low.

Then I looked at Gmail. I opened up an account after receiving an invite from a friend and liked the easy to use interface and first and foremost the 2.5gb free space and the option for attachements up to 10mb. However, I did have troubles with Gmail scanning e-mail messages to "personalise" advertising. Gmail claims that no human will ever read my e-mail but I was not convinced. I stumbled then across a website Gmailusers which is a collection of articles talking about the pros and cons of Privacy Issues surrounding Gmail. I was creeped out by the fact of how hard it is to delete e-mails. Why would Gmail keep your e-mails for that long? Also I am completely freaked out by how far into your private sphere, agencies in the USA can go all under the banner of the new Patriot's Act. What would stop the US government to tell Gmail to scan all of its e-mails with the words "bombs", "salam alaikum" or "Allah" and forward their e-mail addresses to the government agency? Surely, some people would say that this can never happen but ask American citizens if they thought that the Patriot's Act before its inception was ever possible.

I then looked at Yahoo!. Surely it has its shortfalls like a very small screen for me to write e-mails and having no formatting options when using Yahoo with Firefox. I refuse to use Explorer so I have to live with strange line breaks and composing messages in plain text only. The mailbox storage is acceptable at 1gb and attachements are available up to 10mb. But also what attracted me to Yahoo Mail was that it is already beta testing its new interface based on technology from Oddpost, which it aquired in 2004. Oddpost's browser-based mail client provided much of the look, feel and speed of a desktop mail client. The beta will be limited to a select group of Yahoo! Mail users. Among the features in the new interface, which will work in both Internet Explorer and Firefox, are drag-and-drop, message preview, address auto-complete, scrolling through all messages in a folder (rather than just a small group at a time), and right-click menus.

I have changed my e-mail address to Yahoo and really enjoy replying to e-mails wherever I am. Before that I had either no access to already downloaded or archived e-mails unless I was in front of my computer. I know that there are programmes like Outlook Everywhere but for a light user like me hardly a viable option.

Keep it foolish!

P.S. Today I mentioned in class about underwear with an in-built GPS system. Unfortunately I fell for this hoax as reported by Museum of Hoaxes. I sincerely apologise!


At 9:26 AM, Blogger Luke said...

You're so honest! You could easily have claimed you were just hoaxing the rest of us. Sometimes the gap between reality and satire is just to narrow for comfort!

At 10:30 AM, Blogger Daniel Sadgrove said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Kevin said...

Interestingly, regarding the whole Patriot Act situation, I have a number of friends who have been signing off emails with "Bomb. President. Allah. And a great BIG hug to our friends in the CIA" in white on white text, or integrating that text into webpage designs.

Surveillance is something they're used to, right to the point where subversion comes easy.

In terms of email, Hotmail are also not to be trusted. Their TOS includes rights to much of what passes through their service, which came out when a hotmail staff member was discovered using financial advice in a private discussion between two other people.

They were taken to court but Hotmail said, "Nope, read the TOS" and it WORKED. So I don't trust them.

In terms of Gmail, this is one of the reasons why I constructed myself multiple different gmail accounts. They'll only get a snapshot of the academic me, the other-job related me and the would-be-writer me. If you rolled that all up they'd have me pegged, but disconnected facets won't get them anywhere near as far.


Pragmatically paranoid, that's me.

- Kevin.

At 12:22 PM, Blogger mags said...

in the words of bob marley
'have no fear for atomic energy, cause none of them can stop the time'. And no, Im not stoned, but I do reckon he's right. Substitute 'atomic energy' for 'the powers that be' etc.


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