Update: Users are now reporting that Gmail service at least is back for some, though recurring outages and slowness are also being reported. At this stage it appears that some have service restored while others remain completely unable to connect.
Gmail is currently experiencing what appears to be a widespread outage, with reports coming in from Europe, the U.S., Canada, India and beyond that Google’s email service is down. We’re still seeing a green light (update: now showing red as of around 2:20 ET) on the App Status dashboard, but are trying to find out more about the problem.
The error being seen by most users at the moment is a (500) code problem, which pretty much just indicates that it’s a temporary problem and doesn’t give a clue as to cause. Judging by the response on Twitter, however, the problem is currently affecting a huge number of users. Google+ is also down, although you’d be forgiven for not having noticed that sooner.
The Google+ outage also affects YouTube comments under the new system, which means those aren’t loading at all on videos, as well as Hangouts across the web and mobile. Users attempting to access Gmail via external clients using either POP or IMAP protocols also aren’t able to get through to their inboxes. Repeated calls to Google’s press line failed to go through, and we’ve emailed their press account for more info but there’s a very good reason to suspect they might not be reading that (see entire article above).
As an added bonus, note that Google’s Site Reliability Engineering team, which makes sure Google services stay up, was doing an AMA on Reddit exactly when this happened. That’ll show you to take a breather guys.
Google calls this a “disruption” in its Gmail service according to the Apps Status Dashboard, and promises “more information shortly.”
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Dropbox acquisition Mailbox has expanded from its single service roots with support for Yahoo Mail, iCloud, Me.com and Mac.com accounts. Previously, the client supported only Gmail inboxes, making its audience large but limited.
Mailbox said it had more requests for iCloud and Yahoo Mail support than for any other feature.
This release displays the influence of Dropbox — which has been by its nature a platform agnostic offering. Confining Mailbox to only Gmail was likely a matter of expediency and growth. But now that Mailbox has the resources of Dropbox behind it, they’ve managed to add in additional services for the first time.
The Mailbox purchase was a good signal that Dropbox was making moves to expand beyond a syncing service into a platform of tools. Given that it’s on a crash collision course with Box, which is coming in from the opposite (enterprise) direction, it makes sense for Dropbox to be cobbling together a set of unique productivity offerings it can eventually show to enterprise clients as a reason to use the platform. Box is in the process of doing the same.
The Mailbox update is out today for iOS. Unfortunately, thought there are now more mail service options, the app remains absent on Android. And the app won’t truly be service agnostic until it gains support for adding custom IMAP or POP services, but that’s for another day.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
After a week of Yahoo Mail outages that began four days ago, CEO Marissa Mayer has posted an apology to the company Tumblr. In it, she gives some details about the issue, which was apparently related to a hardware failure — and says that the issue affected 1% of Mail users.
“For many of us, Yahoo Mail is a lifeline to our friends, family members and customers,” reads Mayer’s apology. “This week, we experienced a major outage that not only interrupted that connection, but caused many of you a massive inconvenience — that’s unacceptable and it’s something we’re taking very seriously. “
The issue began on December 9th late in the evening, when a hardware outage alerted the engineering team to an issue with storage that served 1% of Yahoo’s users. The issue, says Mayer, was a ‘particularly rare’ one. Mayer also notes that a confusing ‘scheduled maintenance’ error which some users had seen during the emergency was in error.
Mayer says that, as of this afternoon, Yahoo has restored access to ‘almost everyone’ and delivered the queue of messages that was held up from being delivered. IMAP access has not been completely restored, nor has the complete inbox states of users with folders and ‘star’ statuses. So if you log in to your inbox and see that stuff still missing, it’s theoretically coming. Yahoo says it will be reaching out to individual users on the status of their inboxes.
“Above all else, we’re going to be working hard on improvements to prevent issues like this in the future. While our overall uptime is well above 99.9%, even accounting for this incident, we really let you down this week,” Mayer’s note concludes. “We can, and we will, do better in the future.”
The outage began suddenly and has gone on for an extremely long period of time, especially for a critical service like email. We reported on the issues on Wednesday, noting that the issues were affecting small business owners.
“Yahoo is so overwhelmed they cannot answer phone calls or reply to emails,” one user told TechCrunch. “I’ve been on hold for hours and hours since last Sunday, spoke twice to a real person who in both instances sent me to another number that is absolutely unreachable.”
“They have shut down the websites of countless businesses. The last person I talked with [via phone] acknowledged they have no idea how many people they’ve impacted.”
While we found Yahoo’s recent Mail redesign to be pleasant, and to carry over some nice design cues from its mobile efforts, not everyone felt the same. Many users were irritated by its changes and the loss of some well-liked features. Yahoo Mail SVP of communications products Jeff Bonforte also sent an internal email that noted that the majority of internal Yahoo staffers had not yet switched to the new Mail product.
And just yesterday, Yahoo’s imaging site flickr also suffered an outage, going offline and remaining so for several hours.
Yahoo and Mayer have faced criticism over how they handled this outage, with All Things D’s Kara Swisher calling them out for what she said was poor communication. Mayer also published a brief update to her personal blog on Wednesday with the title Yahoo Mail restored and a link to a help doc, but the restoration had not in fact been completed.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Today Microsoft announced that it has added IMAP support to its Outlook.com webmail product. Outlook.com has over 400 million active users according to Microsoft, making it not only one of the most popular webmail services around.
Why IMAP? Demand, likely, and the fact that Microsoft wants developers to take a keener interest in its little email program. In a blog post announcing the move, Microsoft noted that “some devices and apps that haven’t made the upgrade to [Exchange Active Sync]” and that “IMAP is widely supported on feature phones and other email clients such as those on a Mac.” So, it built it in.
Outlook.com is a viable Gmail alternative, though one that I fault for lacking a single feature (Priority Inbox, which I cannot live without), but it’s still worth noting that Microsoft managed to build a product that people tend to honestly dig. That’s in contrast to the Hotmail dog days.
Outlook.com also support OAuth, which allows for simple integration into other apps. It isn’t clear how many applications and things of that sort are currently integrated with Outlook.com, though the potential could be sizable given its massive userbase.
Outlook.com did fine on its own – 1 million users in its first day of life, and so forth – but it was when Microsoft folded the entire Hotmail userbase into its roles that it became titanic in size.
Finally, a note on something social. I first heard that IMAP support was coming to Outlook.com the same way as a great number of other folks today, on Reddit. The Outlook.com team held another Reddit question session today (an ‘AMA’ in nerd parlance) that was, in fact, great. Answering questions honestly is always refreshing. If you want a look at how to Reddit properly, this is it.
Top Image Credit: Bogdan Suditu
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Evomail, one of the many newer startups trying to rethink the email inbox for mobile, has now arrived on Android. Originally designed as a Gmail client for iPad, the service seemed inspired by a number of well-known apps and email clients, including now Google-owned Sparrow, as well as Dropbox-acquired Mailbox, which popularized the use of gestures as a way to interact with your email.
The iOS version of Evomail, now iPhone-optimized as well, introduced a variety of features including push notifications for new messages, folders and labels, snoozing functionality, and gestures that let you swipe to delete or archive, shake to press and hold to label, star, reply, forward, or mark as read and more for example. These same features are now available on Android.
When the company first debuted its app in May, reviewers typically found the interface clean and polished and the app easy enough to use, but also encountered several bugs. Co-founder and CEO Jonathan George explains that today, the major issues have been addressed, thanks to Evomail’s fast weekly release cycle.
George previously co-founded Boxcar, the push notifications service for developers that was acquired by Kwaga in July 2012. He says he thought up the idea for Evomail the evening he signed the acquisition papers. “Email has received many new coats of paint over the years, but no one has really gone in and renovated the entire house,” he explains. “We did just that by building EvoCloud, which is a layer on top of email.”
EvoCloud is meant to address the problems that email previously faced due to fragmentation of mail servers — that is, if you needed to build out a feature requiring server support, you would have to have all the providers build support for it as well, and upgrade their own systems. Instead, EvoCloud centralizes the mail providers into one layer, allowing the company to build its own server functionality like Gmail’s Priority Inbox, or their new tabs interface, and then make that available to anyone – even those who aren’t using Gmail.
Today, Evomail supports a number of mail systems, including of course Gmail, but also Yahoo, iCloud, and other IMAP-enabled services. The company plans to soon begin selling freemium subscriptions to offer users access to features their mail provider may not have offered.
As of last month, the company was reporting 25 percent week-over-week growth on the iOS side, but declined to detail the the number of downloads or actives the app now has. However, the app trails the big-name providers Gmail (#2), Yahoo (#6), Hotmail (#47), as well as Mailbox (#60) in the U.S. app store. The iPhone and iPad versions flirted with the top 100 during launch, but now they struggle to maintain a ranking in the top 500 in the Business category (per App Annie’s stats.)
Reviews for the iOS version are middling, reflecting the company’s still very early nature. Users continue to report bugs and crashes, but others say it’s “getting there.” The app’s design goes a long way to sell its concept, but without the stability and speed, it will be hard to keep users from removing it from their phones.
On Android, Evomail hopes to at least have an early mover advantage, by beating out other popular email clients, like Mailbox, to the platform. With an earlier pre-release beta, the app performed the functions as expected, but still seemed very laggy compared with the native Gmail app and others.
However, the company says it’s squashing bugs all the way up until today’s launch, so it’s not possible to do an in-depth review at this time. Likely, it’s still much in the same boat as the iOS version, though: “getting there.” Depending on a number of factors — your email provider, inbox size, how much email you receive (I could be an outlier here, of course), and more — your mileage, as they say, may vary.
But given the stage that Evomail is in, the progress the company has made in only a few months’ time is notable. The Witchita-based startup, also co-founded by David McGraw and Dominic Flask, is essentially bootstrapped, having a tiny team of four and just $100,000 in seed funding. To take on a problem as massive as email under these circumstances is crazy and risky…attributes that, frankly, it’s nice to see.
Evomail for Android is here on Google Play.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Those who upgrade can opt out of contextual ads through Yahoo’s Ad Manager. Yahoo bluntly tells users who refuse its new policies that they should either download their mail to another IMAP client, or close their account. Premium Mail Plus users who want to cancel their accounts can get a prorated refund.
Some are labeling the switch an aggressive invasion of privacy. An anonymous Jottit user writes: “Yahoo can now openly troll through email for personal information that it can share or hold onto indefinitely. Gay and haven’t come out yet? Yahoo knows…”
However, as commenters on Hacker News note, Gmail has long scanned your email to show you related ads. Even if you use a system like StartMail that doesn’t scan your messages, the system your conversation partners use might not be so hands-off. And as many warn, anything you send in an email could end up public, so keep the naughty stuff off the web.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
WorkinBox matches incoming email with CRM data to help sales people prioritize and focus on messages from customers and prospects, access relevant information and files from CRM, and update CRM systems. The technology has two parts:
Salespeople can sort their inbox by opportunity size, and access the information and files they need to resolve customer questions. They can turn messages into actionable tasks, and update salesforce.com as they work. It is designed to help bring value to sales organizations that spend $12 billion a year on CRM systems that don’t get used, especially on the go.
Mobile systems are changing CRM. CiteWorld recently had a story about Bluewolf CEO Eric Berridge who spent a day on the road with Sysco sales people to see how they work. He learned they do not use their CRM apps.
The customers he visited were just as busy. “They all have five minutes, maximum, to deal with him; they’re running a business, they have to deal with cash registers and waiters and deliveries. The notion of this guy using a CRM system in front of the client in the five minutes they have for him is a complete disconnect from how his job works.” The salesman Berridge shadowed told him he was part of the pilot system. “He didn’t turn it on once.”
Alan Lepofsky, VP and Principal Analyst for Collaboration Software at Constellation Research saids in a prepared statement:
Sales professionals rely heavily on email to engage with prospects, yet there’s critical information about these prospects in a separate CRM system. Switching context between the two is cumbersome, especially on a mobile device. If a single app could bring those two worlds together, providing instant access to the information and actions needed to win a deal, companies will be lining up to use it.
Co-Founder Ryan Nichols said Tylr competes with two types of startups. Mobile sales tools like Crushpath and Doubledutch that he says would be concerning if they tackled the elephant in the room for mobile productivity: the email inbox. He said there are a group of startups tackling mobile email, like Mailbox and TaskBox. ”They’d be concerning if they started connecting their inbox to enterprise apps and targeting specific enterprise roles,” he said.
Tylr has raised more than half of the $1.5M in seed financing it is seeking to build out its mobile work platform and make the app generally available at Dreamforce in November. It has four local employees and one offshore. The company will double its employees by the end of the year.
The company is backed by the Citrix Startup Accelerator, the Alchemist Accelerator, and a group of individual investor/advisors from companies like SAP and salesforce.com.
More effective filters are needed for email. It’s just a question of how much Tylr can be applied to work passively without too much manual intervention.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Before Mailbox was even an officially announced project, and long before it sold to Dropbox in what is said to have been around a $100 million deal, Josh Milas and Alex Obenauer took to Kickstarter to fund their very own reinvention of email. The team created Mail Pilot, which promised “email reimagined,” with the goal of turning email into a task-oriented to-do list to help people truly get things done.
Here we are over a year after the Kickstarter project officially closed its successful funding period, and Mail Pilot is finally ready to debut its iPhone and iPad app to the general public. But it’s a very different one than it was as originally conceived, which, depending on what backers were expecting, may disappoint a few of them. Mail Pilot’s founders, however, believe the new model is better than their old, for backers and new customers alike.
Originally planned as a subscription service that, like Mailbox, used third-party servers to process a user’s email, Mail Pilot took a late game change in direction, announcing last week that it would be dropping the third-party server model and also doing away with subscription fees. Now it’s a one-time purchase for the app itself, and the app communicates directly with your own mail server, without having to route through a second destination. This offers speed and performance improvements, alleviates privacy concerns, and keeps costs down, the founders explained to me in an interview, and as someone who has used both early and later versions of the Mail Pilot beta, I can personally attest to the improvements in general performance.
“Dropping the subscription was conversation that we had had at least once every month since even before we went on to Kickstarter, because we didn’t know whether people would be willing to pay that, and we didn’t think they would be,” Obenauer explained in an interview. “But it was necessary for the server costs and for implementing some of the more advanced features.”
Since launching in beta back in September, Obenauer said that they’ve learned a lot more about what’s possible using just IMAP from the local applications themselves, and they also learned that the majority of users were dead set against having a subscription for something like a mail client, as expected. Also, the privacy implications of using third-party servers to process mail messages made many participants uncomfortable, even with proper encryption and security in place.
The challenge then became reworking the Mail Pilot model to implement its advanced features without the use of a third-party server. Those features involve mostly turning email into a more immediately actionable to-do list, with a checkbox to mark things as complete and send them to archive, the power set them for review at a specific later date or just a day to a few days away with a single swipe, and the ability to create lists out of emails directly.
The app is universal, and retails for $14.99. It’s a bit steep for an iOS title, but Obenauer said that they’ve found it’s what their audience is “willing to pay for an improved email experience.” That it’s more of a productivity app than a simple Gmail client is what helps justify the price, Milas explained, and it is true that apps like Things and OmniFocus are right in that price range.
Mail Pilot’s ditching of subscription fees means that backers who pledged a lot of money for extended service get free copies of the various Mail Pilot apps for life, and the iOS version is just the start. Milas says that a Mac version is on the horizon next, and there are plans for Windows and Android apps to follow down the road. Mail Pilot supports any email service provider with IMAP compatibility.
Mail apps are being acquired faster than they can be built, so I asked Obenauer and Milas whether they’re in this for the long haul or looking for a quick exit. They said they’re best-positioned right now to be able to build the product they want on their own, but anything’s possible.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
I’ve tried to avoid chiming in on BlackBerry 10 but the past few days have brought us an excellent set of reviews and assessments of the platform and, now that I’ve had the chance to play with the device first-hand, I’m ready to say it: BlackBerry did a great job, but it won’t be enough.
On the one hand, BB10 is a beautiful effort. It’s evocative of webOS and some of the best skeuomorphism I’ve seen in a long time. The swipe UI takes a while to figure out – there are few onscreen cues – but once you get the hang of it sliding around the interface isn’t hard. The built-in apps are creative and imaginatively done and the messaging, as expected, is excellent. The browser isn’t the best in terms of actually navigating full web pages, and selecting text in entry fields and other places is finicky, but overall it’s a strong debut for a new mobile OS.
And yet… the operating system is derivative and so far from the original BlackBerry OS environment that it will scare off casual BlackBerry fans. The value of a phone with a keyboard is diminished by arguably more powerful and full-featured Android phones, and iOS is a safe moneymaker for app developers.
Much has been said about the coming glut of apps and the pledges made by major developers to make software for BB10. This is fine, but Microsoft has much more money to convince developers to drop cool apps on its platform than BlackBerry and, in the end, that’s what drives adoption in untested waters. I’ve spoken to many developers who have been wined and dined by Microsoft and who, in turn, made apps for Windows Phone. The same can be said of BlackBerry, but what small dev house wants to support apps on four platforms, let alone on just Android and iOS?
Another argument hinges on security and IT. However, as any enterprise IT guy will tell you, we’re in the age of BYOD. Why run BES and an IMAP server and whatever is necessary for a small business when Google Apps does the same just as easily for a small business and other cloud services based on secure standards are available to IT fleets? I know that it isn’t all perfect – there are still plenty of hoops Mac owners have to jump through to get into secure file systems remotely and many enterprise apps aren’t available for Android or iOS but, if I’m an in-house app builder, what will I spend my time learning? It’s not BB10, especially when the boss is clamoring for a custom iOS financial dashboard she can use on a daily basis.
In short, BB10 isn’t built for the way business is done today. When RIM was in its ascendance there weren’t many options for an IT guy. You could install Exchange, sendmail, or Lotus and wait for a crash. BES was a godsend. Now that’s no longer true. 99.9% uptime is the rule, not the exception, and there are hundreds of cloud service providers that can turn a single founder into a mobile powerhouse from the comfort of her phone – her iOS phone.
There will be three players in this game and their market shares will remain fairly constant. Android will lead due to install base, iOS will come second, and Windows Phone will sit solidly as a roadblock to potential rivals. As odd as it seems right now, Microsoft is about to win a major seat at the mobile table, a seat that once belonged to BlackBerry. Windows 8 will become the norm and the new UI will become as familiar to us all as Windows XP.
The biggest problem? Blackberry fans are scattered. Years of relative stagnation have forced the company to rethink its entire strategy and, while there was once amazing value in building a great phone with a great keyboard, that time has passed. The fan who clung desperately to his Bold over the intervening years will be off-put by BB10 and countless workers forced to use BlackBerrys at their jobs have finally rattled the cage enough to be allowed to bring any phone at all to the office.
Two days ago, RIM became BlackBerry and promised the next generation of messaging smartphones to a fan base that has moved on. In March, I wonder how many of those fans will head to stores to pick up the latest from this largely irrelevant company.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch