“Email is Broken”

This item caught my eye this morning as I scanned my Reader account:

“Mozilla officially launched its new Thunderbird focused spinoff Mozilla Messaging yesterday with David Ascher as CEO. Mozilla Messenging begins with the proposition that e-mail is broken, with its goal being to fix it.”

I’m currently working with or have recently heard a pitch from four otherwise unrelated startups that are operating on essentially this same premise. Each has a significantly different take on the problem, and (if they all make it through the funding cycle) will each be addressing a different target audience.

I don’t know if any of these companies (including the new Mozilla spinoff) will succeed, but I’m convinced that the premise is 100% correct. Gmail is the best thing to happen to email in the last 10 years, but keyword search, conversation threading and free storage aren’t exactly breakthrough innovations.

My offhand comment to one of these entrepreneurs was, “messaging today is more collage than poetry” and in retrospect that feels about right. Email (and IM) messages are increasingly just lightly annotated vehicles for contact information, documents, images, URLs, sound and video files, which represent the real informational payload. But most email clients, from MS Outlook to the major Webmail players, are stuck in a text-centric, reverse-chron framework that no longer makes sense. Gmail gave us hope, and Xobni is pushing at the next layer of resistance, but there’s a long, long way to go. What a great sandbox for an entrepreneur to play in…