I was very impressed with the Yahoo! Mail API and all of the buzz that it has generated. First and foremost, I think it’s very clever how they have limited most of the really interesting functionality to those users who have premium accounts. They have also offered developers a referral fee for encouraging basic users to upgrade to premium accounts. By linking the most interesting functionality for the API with premium accounts and offering a financial incentive to develop premium user-focused applications, they should capture the world of developers who are motivated both by fame and money.
Below are three things I would love to see someone develop. I know that not all of these things can be accomplished using the Yahoo! Mail API today:
Email-oriented personal organizer – I’d imagine that someone who pays the extra money to get Yahoo! Mail Plus is a serious email user and probably relies on email in a real way. Right now, a lot of my life happens on email — a lot of my to-dos, social events, and meetings start off as email exchanges. The hardest thing today is finding a good way to take all of that information and context and import it into some other personal organizer system. I would love to see an enterprising developer take the Yahoo! Mail functionality and move to a model where I can start with an email string and convert it into a real task, event, or something else. I realize that you can do some of these things in Outlook today (drag an email on to your calendar or task list to create an event or task, for example), but I’d like to be able to see this work in a web context without a reliance on an Exchange server. I am sure that some enterprising person who deals with a lot of email could come up with a clever app that helps email addicts stay organized.
Email Stats Dashboard – This isn’t particularly useful, but I would be willing to give someone access to my message streams in order to get some visibility into the underlying patterns of my communications. With whom do I communicate the most? To whom do I reply most quickly? Whose messages do I always read and what messages do I generally ignore? This information has limited value on a standalone basis, but could become a very powerful feeder for a next gen personal organization service. If the system could get good at profiling me and my message stream, I might actually trust such a system to start doing things on my behalf of sending me reminders (you haven’t talked to Noah in a few weeks so you should email him, you have an important email from Jack and you haven’t responded for 4 days, etc). Having access to this communication pattern data could be useful to me as a user, especially if it becomes the foundation for more interesting apps based on how I triage my own email flow.
The ultimate address book – Plaxo is just about the only company that seems to have a real interest in address books. How can that persist? I use Plaxo and find it useful, but there are a lot of things that Plaxo does not do for me. One of the most basic things that I would like is a smart bounce manager. First, the smart bounce manager would give me a report on all the mail that I send that bounces and flag those contacts as being out-of-date. Second, because almost every contact info update email I get has the same structure, this program ought to also be able to recognize those kinds of messages and silently update my email address book. Third, it would be great if this ultimate address book would do automatic de-duplication for me. I have tons of friends who have personal and professional email addresses and end up showing up as two different entries. There has to be a better way. There are lots of other gripes I have with the modern address book, but suffice it to say that there’s plenty of work to do.