Gmail correction and prognosis

I'm happy to report that I was wrong about Gmail's POP feature. The perceived problem I wrote about here turns out to have been operator error on my part. Apologies to Keith Coleman and the Gmail team. As is often true in cases like this, a combination of factors led to the misperception:

Here's what I think happened. I compared the first few batches of POP messages with libgmail-retrieved messages from the same time period, and saw outbound messages in the latter stream that didn't appear in the former. So I hypothesized that there was a problem, and then found evidence to support that hypothesis in the documentation. All in all, a classic illustration of the psychology of debugging vis-a-vis the power of self-deception.

Bottom line: I was able to exported my complete archive using POP.

If you're going to be wrong, though, at least be usefully wrong. In this case the useful outcome was a new appreciation of the value of libgmail. I'd originally seen it as just a way to archive messages. I've since come to see it as one of several enablers that combine to make Gmail the most productive (and strategic) email platform going.

Search is the pillar, of course, but tagging is crucial too. Queries for combinations of standard and user-defined metadata have become central to my personal information management strategy.

The real kicker, though, is that Gmail is the user innovation toolkit for email that I've been looking for ever since the conclusion of my 1999 book on Internet groupware. It was a Gmail user who invented persistent search folders, conversation previews, and macros. It was another user who created libgmail, an API that's making me more productive while at the same time giving me ideas for follow-on innovations that leverage programmatic search.

We've seen how a user innovation toolkit can breathe life into maps. Now we're seeing how the same kind of toolkit can breathe life into email as well. I don't think ads are the endgame for Gmail. The real monetizable asset will be the APIs that we're all going to help them create, and the value-adding services that Google will be able to build on top of them.

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