Social media may now provide the favorite way to communicate but email – boring old email – remains indispensable for most people. So when someone comes along and says they've improved email, people tend to listen – albeit with some skepticism.
But Dave Baggett, who studied computational linguistics at MIT in the 1990s, has been turning heads in the tech world lately with his new email app, Inky. Baggett, co-founder of software start-up Arcode, wanted to produce an email client that did more to help consumers manage their email – especially consumers who have multiple email accounts.
The result is a free and eye-pleasing program that pulls all of your email accounts into one place.
“We've made it much more streamlined compared to something like Outlook,” Baggett told ConsumerAffairs. “With Outlook there's a hundred controls on the screen. We tried to boil that down to a small set of controls that are intuitive but retain all the power.”
To do that Inky has to be a little different. It has to think and make decisions.
“My background is all about trying to extract information from text,” Baggett said. “I wanted to make a mail system that would understand your mail. It knows what your mail is about, instead of being a passive observer.”
All sorts of emails come in on a daily basis. There may be a daily deal. You may be on the distribution list for a dozen newsletters. Some of these messages are more important than others.
Sorts by relevance
One of Inky's tasks is to sort through all these messages and make sure the important ones – emails from your boss or spouse – don't get overlooked.
A shipping confirmation may come in from Amazon, with a tracking number. You're busy, so Inky retrieves the tracking number and figures out the location of the package.
“That smartness is what I think is the underpinning of email 2.0,” he said. “We certainly won't be the only ones that do this, but I think we're at the leading edge of this, the way I think email is going to work.”
Inky is currently available for Windows desktop and Mac OS X. The mobile app is limited to the iPhone but an android version is planned for release before the end of the summer.
To use it you simply download the app to your device and start entering your email addresses. Consumers who have multiple email addresses know that can sometimes be a cumbersome process with a smartphone.
With Inky, you just enter the email address and the password. It does the rest.
“We put a bunch of work into figuring out how to automatically connect to your account, just from your email address and password,” Baggett said. “You'll see other clients do that for the major ones, like Gmail, but not for email addresses from Godaddy. I wanted to make it so that it was 2 pieces of information, you type them in, and it connects.”
Baggett said he built the system around privacy. He set out to make Inky different from other email apps and program, which he says store consumers' email on servers.
“That means their employees can read your mail,” he said. “They'll tell you they don't read your mail and they have safeguards, but they still can. And of course, law enforcement can get to it that way too.”
As Baggett explains it, Inky simply downloads your mail to your device. It doesn't get in the middle of the connection between your device and your mail server.
“Your mail never touches our network,” he said. “We have no ability to read it.”
Baggett thinks privacy is something consumers should care about. But even in the wake of revelations of NSA snooping, he thinks he may be a little ahead of the curve.
“I'm not sure this emphasis on privacy matters to people yet but I believe that someday it will,” Baggett said. “I don't see share moving because of privacy issues. I don't see people moving off Gmail because of privacy concerns. But I wonder if one day it'll start to shift.”