Email has been around for quite a while and despite it's obvious benefit to the world, there are a few inherent flaws. For this reason, developers and IT people have been trying to prop it up with spam filters, phishing detectors, and complex organizational controls. Few have been able to come up with any reasonable kind of alternative though. IM requires both parties to be present, as does the phone, voice messages are fought with problems, and microblogging is limited in both features and in length.
Here is a new service, though, that seems to have mulled over the problem and given their best shot at a true email alternative. It's called Corlive and it works by housing everything on an internal system that is best accessed by a URL. Instead of requiring messages to be sent between servers and loaded on to multiple machines, the entire process goes on within Corlive and generally stays in "the cloud." It's kind of like Gmail if every user was a Gmail user and all of the messages just hung out in your online inbox.
The way it works is each user who wants to recieve mail creates a nickname on Corlive.com. A bit of advice: almost every nickname is available right now so if you want to make sure you get the one you want, I'd grab it now. Registering creates a simple online inbox that you can can check for messages. The account holder can then distribute a link that takes anyone, registered or not, directly to a message entry form. The link can have several attributes (based on a simple syntax) that will either autogenerate a specific subject for the message or (in the future) send the message to a specific user folder.
Try it out: click this link to send me a message. I need to test it out, so really, say hello!
If you want to be notified when you have new messages, there is a small background app that can alert you from the system tray. So far it seems to be small and useful.
This closed system (in the sense that it is internalized, not that it is restricted to certain people) has a lot of advantages as well as some potential disadvantages. I plan on writing a detailed analysis for MakeUseOf.com, but I'll share of my initial thoughts with you here:
- Messages will always get from the sender to the recipient (unless all of Corlive is down)
- Spam is apparently impossible because robots can't use Corlive - I'm talking with Corlive about this and will update it with how they specifically prevent bots. Update: From the Corlive Admin, "Every user after sending more than x messages in 24 hours will see a captcha and will be required to answer it. So 'normal' users won't be bothered, and spamers or bots will be."
- The system is simple, compared to some of the crazy email systems out there
- It works a lot more like a social network identity than an email system
- Links can be filled with information by the recipient user - Corlive might even be able to build an app to generate custom URLs easily
- You don't have to wait until it is very popular to start using it
- As of right now, very few features
- A great deal of dependance on Corlive's servers
- There may be scalability issues - case in point: Twitter
- It isn't incredibly secure at the moment
- There is no API, interoperability with other services, mobile version, or even many profile options - a beta in the true sense of the word
[Email diagram from Wikipedia under GNU-FDL]