Last week, I wrote a missive to some development people over at Mozillalabs. It was about a new feature they’re considering for Thunderbird, the e-mail client software Mozilla publishes.

As with other things, it set me thinking, this time about the changing face of communications technology and the cyber skin we may be about to shed.

People who wander over to mozillalabs.com/messaging/2010/12/14/get-an-account/ are being asked to install an extension for the current version of Thunderbird that emulates the new feature. They’re also asked for their comments.

Simply, the new feature would, first, offer you an e-mail account when you’re setting up Thunderbird. It seems that some people upon acquiring Thunderbird believe it comes with an account. (In a survey, two-thirds of Thunderbird downloaders were under this impression. The sample size was not disclosed.) When you install the client right now, it asks for your existing e-mail address, so it can set up the account’s server and port data. (It’s all explained on the linked page.)

Of course, I submitted a comment. Here’s what I said to Mozillalabs:

“You very well may be expending effort to forestall an inevitable end of the standalone e-mail client.

“How big is the group that thought downloading an e-mail client included an  e-mail account?

“These are people who have simply mistaken what a client is and what it does. It’s best to steer them to Gmail, Hotmail, or the like. It’s where the e-mail market’s gone. A major Canadian ISP recently outsourced its e-mail service to a web-based provider, although the service can still be used with a client (which was done to satisfy ‘legacy’ customers).

“Recent studies (there was a report in The New York Times in the past week) show that younger people (up to 24ish) are already moving away from web-based e-mail, in favour of texts, tweets, and social-networking sites that offer stripped down e-mail formats for cyber communication. (IM didn’t even come into it.) They are not the market for an e-mail client separate from their browser, and certainly not one apart from the social-media site(s) of their choice.

“While addressing what may be an indication of the eventual demise of the   e-mail client, there is no use in serving to further the dumbdownification of either the web or of personal-computing in general by offering the kind of set-up wizard described here. Better to say, ‘In order to use Thunderbird, you must already have an e-mail account. If you don’t have one through your ISP, you can get one here for free (links), or purchase one here (links).’

“Keep in mind, the free-account sites require setup on their end to allow a client to receive and send messages using the sites’ servers, and the ability to do that is not always free. (Yahoo! and Mail.com charge for an ‘upgrade’ to this ‘convenience.’)

“Sending potential new client users to free web-based sites may be counterproductive. All the major free sites are pushing their ability to aggregate e-mail from addresses hosted by other providers. (GMX lists this as the #1 reason to have an account with them.) This only makes sense given the move toward cloud computing. (Microsoft is making a big push of "the cloud" to consumers during the Christmas shopping season.)

“Having said that, I believe you’re pushing a rock uphill.”

Certainly the offer to establish an e-mail account would be in keeping with Thunderbird’s friendly face. At one time, I would have had to know my ISP’s POP and SMTP info. Now, using the e-mail address and Mozilla’s database, Thunderbird sets up the account. And mostly gets it right (but never for my ISP’s e-mail). Offering to establish an account would be the next logical step.

Still, overall, I’m left wondering, “Why bother?” Since sending my comment, I’ve seen another article on nytimes.com that shows falling use of web-based e-mail (accessed on desk-top computers, mind you) in the 12-54 age group, while it’s now being adopted by the 55+, with the largest growth in the 65+ age segment. For the e-mail client, I think the water has not only passed under the bridge, it’s well downstream.

That being said, here’s a big difference between convenience and dumbdownification. I opt for the former, and I shall speak to the latter another time.

I’m forever,

 

 

                                                                                    (By the way, I use Thunderbird, and I love it. You can get it here.)

Advertisements