2008-07-14

Snowl: an experiment with messaging in the browser

Last August, after Mitchell blogged about the future of email and penned an email call to action, I posted some thoughts about what a next-generation conversations app might look like.  I've kept thinking about it since then, and several months ago I proposed a labs experiment to build a Firefox extension that tries out some of those ideas.

Lots of users use desktop applications like Thunderbird and Apple Mail to converse with each other online, while many others use web apps, including not only webmail but also social networks, web discussion forums, and other site/service-specific tools.  Is there a role for Firefox in this mix?

That's the key question I'm trying to answer.

I've been hacking on a prototype on and off since then.  It's not quite usable yet, but it's getting there.  It currently has basic support for subscribing to, searching, and browsing messages from feeds via two views: a list view similar to a three-pane email application's interface and a variant of the "river of news" view described by Dave Winer.

I plan to have a 0.1 version of the prototype ready by the Mozilla Summit in two weeks, where I've proposed a session to present and discuss the experiment.  In the meantime, adventurous readers are welcome to check out the source and send me feedback via comments on this blog post, email, IRC, Facebook, your own blog post that references this one, etcetera, etcetera, and so forth.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why not just use the simple mail extension?

Myk said...

Anonymous: I wasn't aware of the Simple Mail extension before you mentioned it. I've now taken a look, and it looks very cool, but different from what I'm trying to do with Snowl, since it's a traditional mail client that employs the "folder" metaphor for organizing messages (along with filters and other traditional mail client functions), whereas Snowl implements a search-oriented interface and incorporates alternate message sources (like feeds and social networks).