For me, 2012 was the year of email. The communication service I'd used daily without much thought suddenly became the communication service I worked on daily and thought about constantly. And, doubtless because I was so focused on email, I began seeing it mentioned everywhere. Some of these mentions were fun product launch announcements, some were sad product shuttering announcements, some were well-earned castigations for inbox hacking. I've gathered up the ones that made the biggest impression on me below.
Disagree or have something else to add? Tell me in the comments!
The Year in Email Product Launches:
- Altomail: An @aol.com address may still be something to sneer at, but this sleek mail client's stack-based sorting drew cheers from The Verge’s Ellis Hamburger, who called it “an uneven, but thoughtful and innovative attempt at reinventing email.”
- Mail Pilot: Many products have learned to walk on Kickstarter--why not an email app? Indeed, the crowdfunding platform proved fertile ground for the task-based app, which exceeded its $35,000 goal ahead of schedule. It’s now in public beta; yearly subscriptions are $50.
- Mailbox App: This swipe-based iPhone app won’t be available to the general public until January, but it's already garnered some serious buzz. Among its fans: MG Seigler and Foodzie’s Emily Olson.
The Year in Email Scandals:
- General Petraeus and Paula Broadwell: After Jill Kelley, a Tampa socialite who organized social events for the military, and her husband started receiving harassing emails accusing Mrs. Kelley of having dalliances with General Petraeus, she turned them over to an FBI pal. He in turn referred it to the cyber crimes unit, which opened an investigation and identified the threatening emails' source as Mrs. Broadwell. Another discovery: Mrs. Broadwell's own dalliances with the CIA head, as documented in the private Gmail accounts each kept. After the FBI presented its findings to the Whitehouse, Petraeus resigned. Whether this decision was prudent or an overreaction is up for debate, but for now, the press, if not the intelligence agencies, are still trying to put together all the pieces.
- UBS Libor Manipulation: In a year rife with rogue trading and botched bets, UBS bankers' routine requests to their colleagues and employees at other banks to fix Libor market prices takes the financial scandal cake. The FSA has thus far found 1900 emailed requests. One broker's succinct summary: "You know, scratch my back yeah an all."
The Year in Email Acquisitions:
- Google acquires Sparrow: When the much-loved desktop and iOS mail client was acquired by Google, many of its users proclaimed it dead. A replacement has not yet been crowned, though some are swiping at Mailbox.
- Returnpath acquires Otherinbox: The former's an email deliverability firm; the latter, an inbox organization suite. Together, they close the send-->organize--measure loop.
The Year in Email Swaps:
- Hotmail-->Outlook.com: Microsoft rebranded its oft derided mail service Hotmail as Outlook.com. For the moment, existing Hotmail users can still keep their firstname.lastname@example.org addresses, but eventually, the suggestion to upgrade will become a mandate, according to Outlook.com Director of Product Management David Law.
- Fluent: Despite a team of ex-Gmailers, this “future of email” never came to be.
The Year in Email Hacking:
- Anonymous hacked an FBI investigator’s email, gaining access to a recording between the FBI and Scotland Yard regarding how to catch two hackers linked to Anonymous.
- Sky News cops to two authorized hackings. And by "cops to" I mean "defends." "We stand by these actions as editorially justified and in the public interest,” writes Head of Sky News John Ryley.
- Leahy Bill and FISA Act Ammendment: The government will not be able to access and search your email without a warrant, unless you’re suspected of being a foreigner. Perish that thought.
- Facebook gives all its users easily guessable email addresses, makes them the only addresses listed on the site (without their permission, naturally)
- Google, FB, and other tech and finance giants come together to design an anti-phishing system called DMARC: Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance. "With DMARC, large email senders can ensure that the email they send is being recognized by mail providers like Gmail as legitimate, as well as set policies so that mail providers can reject messages that try to spoof the senders' addresses," writes Google’s Product Manager Adam Dawes.
The Year in Email and the Election:
The Obama campaign out-emailed the Romney campaign 20:1. More interestingly, “The Obama campaign is twice as likely to send emails from Barack Obama (49% of overall emails coming from him) than the Mitt Romney campaign is to send them from Mitt Romney (23% of overall emails coming from him).” Also, “while none of Romney’s emails had single word subject lines, about 1 in 7 of Obama’s did,” though the subject line with the single biggest haul was “I will be outspent,” which brought in $2.5 million.
The Year in Email Fights:
Microsoft and Google continued their rivalry with a spat over email. Microsoft called the search giant out for reading its users email. Google retorted: “No one reads your email but you. Like most major email providers, our computers scan messages to get rid of spam and malware, as well as show ads that are relevant to you.” “Scanning” is just another word for “reading,” replied Microsoft. Ah, semantics!
- Quitting email
- Replacing some email with collaboration software
- Measuring your email activity and behavior
+ What I’m looking forward to in 2013:
Oh, you know, just the launch of a sorting hat-style enterprise email app called Gander. NBD.
Before that happens, have the happiest of New Year’s!