The new ‘Raindrop’ project seeks to build the ultimate inbox, with the ability to recognise and highlight important messages which could otherwise be lost in the noise.
Mozilla has begun work on a unified inbox named Raindrop which aims to funnel the wealth of online communications into a single inbox – and then sort the wheat from the chaff.
“Email used to house the bulk of the conversations that took place on the internet, but that’s no longer the case today” explains the Raindrop development team, which also works on Mozilla’s Thunderbird email client, in their first post on Mozilla Labs’ Raindrop blog
“In today’s world people use a combination of Twitter, IM, Skype, Facebook, Google Docs, Email etc. to communicate. For many of us this means that we have to keep an eye on an ever-growing number of places we might get new messages. As a result, we never know that we’ve actually processed all the important messages, because our email has overwhelmed by noise which obscures the real messages from real people.”
Raindrop’s first mission is to bring together messages and conversations from a wide variety of sources and integrated them into a single interface “that helps people get a handle on their digital world”.
“When a friend’s link from YouTube or Flickr arrives, your messaging client should be able to show the video or photos near or as part of the message, rather than rudely kicking you over to a separate browser tab” the team says.
“Notifications from computers and mailing lists should be organised for you, not clutter your Inbox or require tedious manual filter setup.”
While Raindrop’s API and open Web foundations will be capable of supporting applications on devices ranging from PCs to smartphones, the ‘flagship’ application created by Mozilla “will be built entirely for any modern Web browser”.
Raindrop will also support extensions “for a variety of important messaging concepts (people, conversations, relationships, tasks, events)... to encourage innovation outside of the core”.
It’s a big task, the team admits. The initial app is deigned for just two different types of messaging – email and Twitter – not just because it’s a very modern combination but because these deliver “two very different types of messages. So how do we display the right amount of information to user? Do we combine both types into a single message format, and if so how do we indicate a tweet or a mail? Or do we break these messages up into two different formats, each with specific visual cues?”
“And those are just single messages, not even conversations yet. So what is the simplest, most efficient, way to represent conversations in Email and Twitter? We’re still looking for the right answers.”
There’s no timetable on the delivery of the project, which is currently in 0.1 status, but the team says “we expect Raindrop to evolve quickly”.