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Prior to Gmail, I used a host of different products: Yahoo!Mail, Hotmail, Prism mail from Georgia Tech and of course the client behemoth in the room, Outlook.  Now, for the record, Outlook does pretty much everything you would want it to do, but that is where the problem starts.  You see, attempting to solve a lot of problems at once and be the answer for everyone means that inevitably you do a lot of things without doing any one thing well.  Take a look at a screenshot of Outlook:

It’s not just email here.  There’s a calendar, a to-do list (with lots of functionality), a search function, contacts, multiple ways to classify emails, etc etc.  Right around the time I started to transition from college to the real world, I had to figure out what client to use.  I distinctively remember opening up Outlook and trying to configure it for my use.  I realized after about four error messages that this was not going to work for me.  All I needed was to send and receive email.  In came Gmail.  Simple and light:

I didn’t need for Gmail to do anything else besides send and receive email.  I started to use it and quickly fell in love!  Of course, I saw it’s limitations almost instantaneously, but I actually appreciated them because I knew somewhere deep inside Google, employees were frantically worried about making the experience of sending and receiving email easier.  Over time Google did something brilliant, they allowed other developers/companies to build products on top of Gmail.  Google realizes that there many developers out there that would love to focus on doing one thing well and they will inherently solve a lot of the problems that we entail with email.  Their excitement and focus on a niche problem can create products that anyone would use.  Let me show you some examples of what my Inbox is running today:

  • CloudMagic – Super fast search for Gmail!  I send and receive a couple hundred emails per day.  The ability to quickly locate a contact’s info, previous conversations, or docs that were sent makes this app incredibly handy.  (There is also some irony that I am using a non-Google application to search through a Google product – isn’t search their bread & butter?)  The search bar is minimalistic and appears in the top right of my gmail:

  • Rapportive – When I receive an email from someone I do not intimately know, I want a quick glance about who they are.  Rapportive made this incredible tool that shows you and links you to all the different social networks the person emailing you is a part of.  Best of all, it replaces the Google ads to the right of the opened email:

  • Unsubscribe – Hands down the winner in doing one thing well!  Who else would build a business solely focused on getting you off all of those email lists that you never even subscribed too!  Beautiful button that allows you to one-click to get off any email list, no more having to search for the buried links at the bottom of the email:

As long as everyone sticks to doing one thing well, then I will have the best email, search, social information, and unsubscribing experience that is available!

Until then, keep focusing on doing one thing well!

December 30, 2010