Why would I want to send a Shortmail?

“Character limited email?” you cry, but no, we’ve not yet lost our minds. This could potentially save so much time for those of us who like to maintain inbox zero yet remain highly productive. Shortmail is going to really shake up the stagnant and meandering world of email.

There is no doubt about it; Email is laborious and time consuming at the best of times. In an age where people are growing continually accustomed to the concise nature of tweets, it is very difficult to hold somebody’s attention through email these days, to the point where very few people actually use their email service for anything other than registrations validations and password recoveries. Shortmail provides a minimalist cross-platform email service that will force both yourself and the people who email you to write to you in 500 characters or less, otherwise they are informed to shorten the email.

Shortmail

You claim your Shortmail email address by simply signing in with Twitter, after signing in you’re then greeted by a page informing you to provide and alternative email address. After passing this page, you are then viewing a web interface which is similar to Gmail, yet much more simple and arguably prettier. When a service has a nice UI, that’s always a sign that it is a well thought out labour of love.

One of the first things that you will notice is the lack of advertising; Fantastic! But the lack of advertising makes us question how Shortmail plan on monetizing in future which happened to be our first question to Dave Troy, CEO of Shortmail. I do not want to become reliant upon a service only to have the core functionality or business model change somewhere down the line.

The only UI choice I dislike is the ‘Contacts’ page where I can’t just scroll through my contacts like on Address Book.app; I have to actually click from letter to letter, and when I want to write a Shortmail, this really takes up time. There is a search field to look for people, but I don’t necessarily want to type in Christina’s name when I should just be able to scroll and click it. Integration of ‘infinite scroll’ would be nice as well as keeping the alphabet filter.

Shortmail proves that sometimes less is more

Tweets are great, but they’re public and they’re not the easiest things to reply to from your email inbox, plus they’re also not cross-platform. You can hold public conversations on Shortmail, but this starts to make me question why I wouldn’t just use Twitter and be on a service that more people use. An interesting use of the public conversation feature could be making ‘internal’ emails amongst staff public so that consumers can get an insight into how your company works.

No attachments are nice, especially for people who don’t have that much bandwidth on their cellular plan. Though because attachments are not possible to send, this means that Shortmail isn’t going to be replacing the Previous Magazine mailserver. My only slight complaint about Shortmail is the inability to use your own external email address; I would love to force people to stick to 500 characters on every email address I have, plus I don’t necessarily want to hand out yet another email address to people when I would rather stick with my previousmagazine.com email address, but the social integration with Shortmail begins to eliminate this necessity.

The profile pages for each user are interesting with their ‘public conversations’, though strangely, for a system that relies so heavily on the Twitter API, there is no Twitter tweet button on the profile page; Only a Facebook like button, a service which they don’t support for registrations. The lack of a Twitter tweet button makes no sense, especially given the @Anywhere integration of promoting the service elsewhere in your account area; Not being able to promote your own profile from your profile page is most likely something that will be fixed in the near future.

There is unfortunately a limitation for some people who don’t yet use Twitter much or even have a Twitter; A major feature of Shortmail is the social functionality and using your followers as a social media generated address book. With the integration of Twitter with iOS 5 on both iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, we will start to see a larger uptake in Twitter, so expect Shortmail to be the next big thing. It isn’t going to take on Gmail, mainly just because the two services are so different from each other, but it is certainly going to have a huge market share, particularly those of us who love applications that help us to be productive.

Shortmail has IMAP – This changes everything

Similarly to Matt, I’m not a fan of web interfaces, but this is where Shortmail really shines; In addition to the webmail interface, Shortmail also supplies IMAP, SMTP and POP3! Some may take this for granted, but the ability to respond directly to messages from your email client on any device is absolutely fantastic and makes Shortmail something that isn’t just stuck as a Gmail service on your desktop or laptop. The shortmail.com email address system accompanied by IMAP stops Shortmail from being just another tweet or DM extension service.

Facebook (The popular social network advertising platform) and MySpace both offer ’email addresses’ (If you can call them that), but they don’t even offer POP3 to users; Thus forcing their users to visit the websites and generate more money from advertising. Say ‘no’ to that nonsense and get yourself a Shortmail! We don’t use Facebook much at Previous Magazine, but Facebook should count themselves lucky that they now provide a more reliable ‘reply via email’ functionality.

To setup IMAP for your Shortmail, simply click ‘Account’ from the web interface, follow this up with ‘Advanced’ and you’re then face to face with your IMAP settings. Before using IMAP for the first time, you will need to setup a password below the settings.

You can also opt-in for beta functionality, the content of which we’re not entirely sure of at this point in time.

Shortmail IMAP Configuration

Setting up IMAP in my Mail.app on my MacBook took a little under sixty seconds; I even had a moment to take a screenshot in that time! When I next connect my iPhone and iPad, the new Shortmail account will be added to those devices and I’ll be able to reply to any queries you have from anywhere in the world.

There are plans to introduce an app for Shortmail, but we think that this would be a terrible move; I don’t want yet another application on my device, especially for something like email when I already have Mail.app baked into the operating system itself. IMAP integrates directly within my Mail.app email inbox and is something that the competition isn’t offering, although judging by the Shortmail forums and Twitter account, the application seems like something that everybody wants, but I’ve yet to see a point in it when it will work wonderfully via IMAP. Sure, a character count could be useful, but it isn’t the end of the world not having one in my inbox; Nobody else outside of the Shortmail service will be able to see how many characters their email has used, so keeping a message brief isn’t all that difficult.

It would not take much to wipe out Shortmail overnight, all it would take would be Twitter to start offering ‘twitter.com’ email addresses and people would take their tweeting to their email inboxes along with slightly more lengthy direct messages; 500 characters anybody?.

I would love to see Shortmail offer a QR code generator with a custom graphic field to apply a graphic to the centre of it that will allow you to send a Shortmail to somebody very quickly whilst on the go or after reading an article. Shortmail does have the potential to be a huge player in the world of email, especially now that people are beginning to expect advanced functionality from their email system. Gmail isn’t the only email system out there, and Google isn’t necessarily doing it correctly which Shortmail proves by having a much more refined user interface.

Give Shortmail a try; It is free and it may just change the way in which you utilise email in your life.

You can test Shortmail out with us by emailing [email protected], we’ll respond to anything you send us.