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Building Email Apps

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Presentation given at Ajax World in San Jose on October 20, 2008. Presents an overview of Internet applications passed and present and gives a hint of what is to come.

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Building Email Apps

  1. 1. Building Email Apps <ul><ul><li>AJAXWorld </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>October 20, 2008 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>San Jose, CA </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Andy Denmark </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>TripIt, Co-Founder and VP Engineering </li></ul></ul>
  2. 2. Email Bankruptcy “ I routinely declare email bankruptcy and simply delete my entire inbox.” - Michael Arrington, TechCrunch “ Wondering if I can get a Bear Sterns bailout for my email bankruptcy.” - willpate on Twitter “ (He) just declared email bankruptcy. I've read those declarations enough to know it means our email tools aren't usable.” - garrickvanburen on Twitter So, why is email still around despite all the challenges and criticism… ?
  3. 3. Email Is Still The “Killer App” <ul><li>Email is a natural extension of a metaphor for communication that humans have used forever </li></ul><ul><li>Everyone has email and is the overwhelming majority of person-to-person online communication </li></ul><ul><li>No matter what else people use to communicate, they use email too </li></ul><ul><li>Email contains an amazing amount of context and data about our lives </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Our relationships </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Our purchases </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Our thoughts and the thoughts of people we know </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. What More Can We Do With Email? <ul><li>Spam and mass email marketing may be contributing to the problems outlined earlier </li></ul><ul><li>But think of all the things we can do to make our applications better by making better use of email: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Broadcasting data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Query interfaces </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Data transfer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Intelligent parsing of data </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Mining of social connections (“Inbox 2.0”) </li></ul><ul><li>Email as an application platform </li></ul>
  5. 5. Does An Email App Make Sense? <ul><li>PROS </li></ul><ul><li>Ubiquity – everyone has email </li></ul><ul><li>Exposure – email is on all day and captures a lot of attention </li></ul><ul><li>Simplicity – easy to send email, everyone knows how to do it </li></ul><ul><li>Embedded identity </li></ul><ul><li>CONS </li></ul><ul><li>May just not fit your service </li></ul><ul><li>May be too complex for your users to understand </li></ul><ul><li>It’s challenging to properly support all email clients, versions and formats </li></ul><ul><li>Building and supporting a system that sends, receives, and reads email is a pain </li></ul>
  6. 6. Prehistoric Email Apps
  7. 7. Domain Registration Email Sign-Up <ul><li>Email to: [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>From address authentication for new sign-ups </li></ul><ul><li>Choose to receive your bill via email or USPS </li></ul><ul><li>Authentication schemes for modify/delete were CRYPT-PW and PGP </li></ul>
  8. 8. Archie File Query Email Interface <ul><li>Available Interfaces </li></ul><ul><li>Text-based client </li></ul><ul><li>Graphical client </li></ul><ul><li>Telnet client </li></ul><ul><li>Email </li></ul>
  9. 9. Browsing The Web Via Email “ For personal reasons, I do not browse the web from my computer. (I also have no net connection much of the time.) To look at page I send mail to a demon which runs wget and mails the page back to me. It is very efficient use of my time, but it is slow in real time.” -- Richard Stallman (2007-12-15)
  10. 10. About TripIt ?
  11. 13. ***CONFIDENTIAL***
  12. 15. Forward Any Confirmation Email Automated Online Master Itinerary Automated Weather, Maps, Guides… Trip Sharing & Social Alerts iCal & Atom Support Email & Mobile Access Add Meetings, Activities, Restaurants, etc.
  13. 16. Why Email Made Sense For TripIt <ul><li>The native format of travel data is varied and unfriendly </li></ul><ul><li>The travel industry isn’t moving to expose that data </li></ul><ul><li>Partnering with big travel companies and building APIs would take too long </li></ul><ul><li>Users already have all their travel data in email, but that data is “dead” </li></ul><ul><li>Auto-account creation using the embedded identity of an email message </li></ul><ul><li>It has become an “instant delight” factor for users </li></ul>
  14. 17. Types Of Email App Services Command Line Interface Data Transfer Semantic Parsing Broadcast ?
  15. 18. Types Of Email App Services Command Line Interface Data Transfer Semantic Parsing Broadcast <ul><li>One Way </li></ul><ul><li>User requests email information to be sent to them </li></ul><ul><li>Typically triggered by an action or an alert </li></ul><ul><li>Examples </li></ul><ul><li>Mailing Lists </li></ul><ul><li>Google Alerts </li></ul>
  16. 19. Example: Mailing Lists Searchable knowledge base built as a by-product of natural human communication
  17. 20. Example: Google Alerts <ul><li>“ Real time” alerts delivered right to my desktop </li></ul><ul><li>Useful way to asynchronously broadcast data I’ve requested as it’s available </li></ul><ul><li>With linkage to the web, alerts are actionable and controllable </li></ul>
  18. 21. Types Of Email App Services Command Line Interface Data Transfer Semantic Parsing Broadcast <ul><li>CLI </li></ul><ul><li>Users emails a command and Email App replies with a response </li></ul><ul><li>Typically a standard list of commands and responses </li></ul><ul><li>Examples </li></ul><ul><li>I Want Sandy </li></ul><ul><li>TripIt </li></ul>
  19. 22. Example: I Want Sandy http://iwantsandy.com/
  20. 23. Example: TripIt
  21. 24. Types Of Email App Services Command Line Interface Data Transfer Semantic Parsing <ul><li>Email Forwarding </li></ul><ul><li>Users forward emails and Email App recognizes and parses them </li></ul><ul><li>Typically converts “unstructured” data into “structured” data making it more usable to the app and user </li></ul><ul><li>Examples </li></ul><ul><li>Flickr </li></ul><ul><li>Blogger </li></ul>Broadcast
  22. 25. Example: Flickr
  23. 26. Example: Blogger
  24. 27. Types Of Email App Services Command Line Interface Data Transfer Semantic Parsing Broadcast <ul><li>Intelligent Agent </li></ul><ul><li>Structured data from email is enriched by the Email App by retrieving related information from other sites </li></ul><ul><li>Typically leverages “keys” such as geo-coding to capture relevant data </li></ul><ul><li>Examples </li></ul><ul><li>TrackMyShipments </li></ul><ul><li>TripIt </li></ul>
  25. 28. Example: TrackMyShipments
  26. 29. Example: TripIt Timezone Online Checkin Flight Status Seat Advice Flight Details Weather
  27. 30. Types Of Email App Services Command Line Interface Data Transfer Semantic Parsing <ul><li>Email Forwarding </li></ul><ul><li>Users forward emails and Email App recognizes and parses them </li></ul><ul><li>Typically converts “unstructured” data into “structured” data making it more usable to the app and user </li></ul>Broadcast <ul><li>CLI </li></ul><ul><li>Users emails a command and Email App replies with a response </li></ul><ul><li>Typically a standard list of commands and responses </li></ul><ul><li>One Way </li></ul><ul><li>User requests email information to be sent to them </li></ul><ul><li>Typically triggered by an action or an alert </li></ul><ul><li>Intelligent Agent </li></ul><ul><li>Structured data from email is enriched by the Email App by retrieving related information from other sites </li></ul><ul><li>Typically leverages “keys” such as geo-coding to capture relevant data </li></ul><ul><li>Examples </li></ul><ul><li>Listserv </li></ul><ul><li>Google Alerts </li></ul><ul><li>Examples </li></ul><ul><li>I Want Sandy </li></ul><ul><li>TripIt </li></ul><ul><li>Examples </li></ul><ul><li>Flickr </li></ul><ul><li>Blogger </li></ul><ul><li>Examples </li></ul><ul><li>TrackMyShipments </li></ul><ul><li>TripIt </li></ul>
  28. 31. Email Systems as Platforms <ul><li>Why turn an email system into a platform for running applications? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Natural personal productivity integration point with other tools such as calendar, contact list, etc… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>All the data is already there </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Done right, the UI is a natural extension of what hundreds of millions of people use everyday, small learning curve </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Examples </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Outlook/Xobni </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>GMail w/ GreaseMonkey </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>GMail Labs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Yahoo! Open Mail </li></ul></ul>
  29. 32. Outlook/Xobni <ul><li>Search your Inbox </li></ul><ul><li>People-focused analytics and semantic analysis (e.g., phone numbers) </li></ul><ul><li>Implicit social graph discovery (i.e., who talks to whom?) </li></ul><ul><li>Related conversations </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.xobni.com/ </li></ul>
  30. 33. TripIt for GMail http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/25778 <ul><li>Drives the UI to “forward” the email </li></ul><ul><li>No access to the data in the message (e.g. headers, attachments, etc…) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Brittle” solution that relies on a UI that doesn’t change </li></ul><ul><li>No feedback loop or error handling with TripIt’s backend </li></ul>
  31. 34. GMail Labs <ul><li>Features on top of GMail, no mashups yet </li></ul><ul><li>Not available to non-Googlers </li></ul><ul><li>Huge un-fufilled potential </li></ul>
  32. 35. Yahoo! Mail <ul><li>Video: Yahoo! OpenMail/TripIt Integration </li></ul>
  33. 36. Key Takeaways <ul><li>Email is not dead! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Treasure-trove of data waiting to be mined </li></ul></ul><ul><li>At least four different types of apps </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Broadcast, CLI, Data transfer, Semantic parsing </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Emerging email platforms </li></ul><ul><ul><li>New ways of delivering your applications via mail platforms are coming </li></ul></ul><ul><li>If you get it right, huge payoff for you and your users </li></ul>
  34. 37. Questions <ul><ul><li>Andy Denmark </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>TripIt, Co-Founder and VP Engineering </li></ul></ul>

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