inessential by Brent Simmons

Email init

We need to talk about email clients.

I’ve been joking for years that I’m going to write an email client and charge $500 for it — an email client that actually meets the needs of developers and professionals who rely on email, folks who type for a living.

But I’m not going to, and I don’t know anybody who is. The economics of it make it kind of tough, given that Apple ships a good email client with OS X.

Nevertheless, we need that email client. The only way to get there is via open source: there might be enough interest and energy in the community to make it happen.

I am not volunteering to lead it. I may not even be able to contribute. But I can at least kick off a conversation about feasibility and interest and scope.

I’ve set up an email-init mailing list: if you’re interested in talking about it, you can sign up.

The first steps are to define what we’re talking about and find out who may be able to contribute. We’ll need a benevolent dictator (I have some ideas in mind, but that’s a lot to ask of somebody).

A couple obvious things to start:

  • It should be a Cocoa app.

  • It should just do IMAP. (Not POP or Exchange.)

The app would need not just coders but testers, designers, documentation writers, bloggers, at least one project manager, and so on. It would need a bug tracker. Repository. Wiki. Website. It will need a name. (I started a Twitter account, which I’ll turn over to whoever leads this once we know who that person is.)

My thinking is that these days, by the year 2010, we’ve learned not to get bogged down in process discussions and things can move quickly. (The goal is to create software, after all.)

The only thing to do is start. It might fizzle out in a couple hours. Or it might lead to that email client we all want.

And, to be totally clear: this is not my thing. I just want the software.

It’s a big job, I know. But our tools have gotten very good and we have a talented and energetic community. I know we can do it.