With the mental downtime that came with my laptop being offline most of today, I had an idea. The effort required to reinstall all my software is non-trivial. What if I didnít have to go through all of it this time? What if I tried to live as much of my digital life as possible on the network rather than on my desktop or laptop?

In thinking about it, Iím certain I can move several things on-line. Iíll start with the most important of those: my email.

I have a working laptop again and Firefox is running with the necessary preferences and extensions. However, I havenít yet reinstalled Thunderbird. Iím thinking Iíll wait at least a month before I do. Instead, Iíll use this as a chance to do a real-world comparison of GMail and Yahoo! Mail (the new one). And since they'll be my only options, I'll learn the real downsides of using hosted email first hand.

For many months now, Iíve been automatically sending copies of my personal email to my GMail account and copies of my work related email to my Yahoo! Mail account.

So the goal it so use web based mail exclusively for the next month or so. In doing so, I expect Iíll learn A LOT about both products, document the interesting bits here, and get a step closer to seeing Sunís vision of the network being the computer.

Iím sure itíll be frustrating, but I think itíll be incredibly useful.

Meanwhile, if you were expecting a response from me, you might want to resend your message. Thereís some email that might not be easily rescued.

Wish me luck... :-)

Posted by jzawodn at September 26, 2005 09:08 PM

Reader Comments
# grumpY! said:

until yahoo or gmail offers imap, it seems webmail will be the only way to go truly networked.

on September 26, 2005 09:24 PM
# Scott Johnson said:

I have gone with the Gmail-only option ever since my Thinkpad finally died on my last winter. I did it for similar reasons--I didn't feel like reinstalling software. It totally changed the way I deal with email. I have found that I feel much less tied down, much less restriced to one computer. I can get at my email anywhere. I've been using the web for 10 years now, and I just realized this year that it works for email, too. Thank you, Ajax!

on September 26, 2005 10:01 PM
# Joe Beaulaurier said:

It only took one unrecoverable hard drive crash to convince me that distributed processing was the way I needed to go. That is, to place my critical information and correspondence where I am not the data steward and an organization is. That's why for the last several years, Y! Mail has been it for me, lock, stock and barrel.

If Y! Drive (remember Y! Drive?) was still available, I'd be storing my all my documents, spreadsheets, etc. on Y! Briefcase also. They're there, but only as a periodic backup.

I've always wondered why you were using Thunderbird with the highspeed access you had to Y! Mail.

on September 26, 2005 10:34 PM
# Jeff Boulter said:

I've been really impressed with the new Y! Mail and I'm forwarding my mail there as well. It's a great way to quickly check my mail without YPN hassles.

It's not quite as fast as Thunderbird though (simply because it's a web app) and I have an insecurity about not being able to read my mail offline. It's very rare that I do, but it's sure nice to catch up on things on a flight or something.

on September 26, 2005 10:39 PM
# Adnan said:

I have been using web mail exclusively for 3 years. I have switched providers twice in this period (Y! -> Fastmail -> Gmail). The problem with web mail is that you never in total control of your emails. Each I have switched, I have had to lose at least some of the emails. Providers never make it easy to move mail.

on September 26, 2005 11:54 PM
# said:

you might want to throw this in the bag also...


try the demo

on September 27, 2005 12:01 AM
# Zhasper said:

I've been doing this for a couple of years.. but I'm running things on my own server, rather than relying on free services.

It works well for me.. but then, I'm a linux admin by trade.. definitely not something that would work for everyone :)

on September 27, 2005 12:04 AM
# Nicole Simon said:

There have been Webclients ever since, but none of them really got me into it because they where lame - and shortcuts did not work.

I have been using Gmail nearly since the beginning because I had to access my mails from two places and even more so for the last weeks since I have my tablet - because I have now three computers plus the occasional visits to other peoples houses.

There is no way I can have my local client and stay connected.

on September 27, 2005 12:48 AM
# Guillaume said:

Yeh bring back Yahoo drive. The drag and drop feature between the Windows Explorer and Yahoo Briefcase was awesome. Too bad it did not work on XP.
I have tried many email software, but have always returned to Yahoo webmail.
And i'm a bit intrigued by this entry. I mean everyone knows that the Yahoo Mail engineers aimed to build a webbased mail client.... It's no secret Yahoo 's gonna win this one....

on September 27, 2005 02:08 AM
# Gudmundur Karlsson said:

You need a new internet infrastructure :-)

Your PC should have a special server running which manages your local data and caches it automatically on the server - like the Y!Drive, but better, completely transparent to you.

All user files (/home on linux), would exist automatically both locally and remotely, not just email, but all data.

As you run out of local space, old data which hasn't been accessed for a long time will age out of the cache (LRU). All data the same, email, docs, mp3s, mp4s,...

Also the remote server data wouldn't only be on one server, but any server near to you. If you go to Japan and start working, the server in Japan will automatically start fetching data from California to make sure it's available to you as quickly as possible.

on September 27, 2005 04:10 AM
# vanderwal said:

I have been doing this in part as my work site does not allow me to pull my e-mail. I have been working on practicing the Personal InfoCloud (www.personalinfocloud.com), but find files and syncing in general to be the biggest problems. I use my mobile (Treo) and browser-based e-mail to keep information close to me.

The three biggest problems are calendaring, address book that is easy to use, and file storage easy management and access. I like Y!Mail that is in beta, but it really needs tags so I can self aggregate my information easily. Sycing this whole Personal InfoCloud is a mess with more than two devices (sometimes that is not clean either).

I really like Gudmundur's ideas just above.

I will be watching intently.

on September 27, 2005 05:49 AM
# Coty said:

I haven't gotten the new Yahoo mail interface, yet, but one feature that GMail recently added that makes it a much more viable full-time alternative for me is the ability to send e-mails from other certified addresses. I prefer to keep my e-mail running through the pobox.com indirection that I've had almost since time immemorial. GMail lets me do that. I may not be able to move mail from one service to another, but at least I can switch it easily when I choose to move.

One thing GMail is lacking is decent access to my mail from my phone. Yahoo does a pretty good job there. I assume that will continue to be the case with the new interface. It would be nice if everyone provided IMAP interfaces, too, so I could choose to use an IMAP client on my Treo, too.

on September 27, 2005 07:50 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Yeah, the cusotm From addresses have been in Y! Mail for years. GMail added it not long ago as well.

on September 27, 2005 08:00 AM
# Pete said:

But when I tried using the custom from field in Gmail, it didn't work quite as expected - instead of coming from the address specified, it showed it as coming from "gmail on behalf of the email address", which kind of defeats the object for me.

Don't know if this is different for Y!mail.

on September 27, 2005 08:59 AM
# Zach Wilson said:

Good Luck! I have tried to lean on web mail numerous times. I have yet to find anything that really _works_ for me like an e-mail client. Personally I use The Bat on my pc and Thunderbird on my powerbook.

on September 27, 2005 09:10 AM
# Otis said:

That's precisely what I've been doing for years. I trust Yahoo with my mail more than my laptop (can get stolen, can fall off the table, can...).
That is also why I save my links online (in Simpy, of course). I'd hate to have any web browser crash and corrupt my precious bookmark collection built over the last decade.

on September 27, 2005 10:23 AM
# Sudar Muthu said:

Eagerly waiting for your results .... so that even i could switch to either Y! or Gmail ;-)

on September 27, 2005 10:25 AM
# Anthony Eden said:

I've been using GMail exclusively for about 6 months and pretty much cringe when I have to use something else. It's really nice not having to worry about installing email clients, backing up mail servers, killing spam, etc. Plus GMail gives be labels which I can't live without now. Folders are so 20th century. ;-)

The next step is to get my entire office suite online. Currently Writely is a step in the right direction as a replacement for Word, now we just need web versions of Excel and PowerPoint and I will never need to worry about installing MS Office ever again, which would rock. Del.icio.us for bookmarks, my own webapp for PIM (coming to a public URL near you soon) and I can live my life almost exclusively online. Oh, and it would be nice to have a web-based IDE at some point, but that may be going overboard. :-)

on September 27, 2005 11:12 AM
# Kevin Johnston said:

> we just need web versions of Excel
> and PowerPoint

Wow! I can't believe nobody thought of that before! ;-)

Halfbrain spreadsheet, 1999:

Halfbrain presentation package, 2000:

Sadly the products themselves are no longer online, to my knowledge, though apparently IBM still sells some descendant of them with WebSphere. See demo movie here:


It shows both products, complete with original background image templates for the presentation package, and a bunch of stuff we didn't do like a word processor and a file manager.

Kevin Johnston - Yahoo Mail Beta engineer and former Halfbrainer

on September 27, 2005 02:29 PM
# Chris Vance said:

As others have suggested, it can be easy to survive with just a webmail account like Gmail or Y!Mail. I've been using Gmail for a year, and prior to that used Thunderbird. I've since uninstalled Thunderbird because I don't have must of a need for the information offline on my desktop.

Gmail allows POP access to email, so you could possibly enable that and keep a copy of message online and on your desktop. It's not IMAP, but better IMO than the Exchange/Outlook Web Access method.

on September 27, 2005 08:38 PM
# Sridhar Vembu said:

A while ago, I noticed that web mail was serving more and more of our email needs. So we decided to offer a product Zoho Virtual Office http://www.zohovo.com to do exactly that. We use it within our company, AdventNet, and most of us don't miss the fat client.


on September 28, 2005 10:16 AM
# Mamuski said:

Pretty good a website, nice job !
Regards Extra Mamuski

on September 29, 2005 10:00 AM
# rick gregory said:

My primary personal email address is from a domain that I own and that's hosted by a provider, so when GMail started offer the ability to send from that address I set up forwarding so that mail to my personal address gets forwarded to GMail. I respnd to it using GMail with my personal email address as the default sending address - and I can't see a reason to install a client anymore.

Now, if I needed calendaring, etc, or if I wanted to sync contacts with my Bluetooth phone, that's different, but I don't need that stuff for personal email. And, if I DO want to revert to a local client, all of my email is on the hosted server so I can just install, setup and IMAP account and I'm there. Also my data's in two places - neither of which I have to worry about backing up.

on October 1, 2005 11:27 AM
# Shahab said:

By the way .. There is this GreaseMonkey script that adds AJAS Support to the current Yahoo .. Looks kewl to me .. But it takes so much cpu :(


on October 2, 2005 01:42 PM
# BillyG said:

IRT backups, I have Norton Ghost give me a FULL backup everynight with Kathy's PTReplicator (free!) performing another backup on new/changed files only (after an initial backup of course). That way, even if my HD, my Norton Ghost CD (for recoveries) cracked and/or CD drive crashed, at least I would still have the copy of all the day's new/updated files on the HD from the Kathy backup. Of course, this is all going to an external HD (different power source). Finally, a script deletes the oldest backup file with a 3 day lag built in (for going away weekends). Go GMail! Go Web 2.0 period!

on October 4, 2005 12:40 AM
# Brian Parks said:

Hey rick gregory...
This is the Holy Grail for me...

rick gregory said:

My primary personal email address is from a domain that I own and that's hosted by a provider, so when GMail started offer the ability to send from that address I set up forwarding so that mail to my personal address gets forwarded to GMail. I respnd to it using GMail with my personal email address as the default sending address - and I can't see a reason to install a client anymore.

Is there any 'how to' out there that lays this out in some detail? My email is brian (at) 6parks (dot) com if you feel sorry enough for me to explain it some yourself.


Also, does anyone here let Yahoo host your own domain email? How do you like it? Do you get the same good Y!mail webmail interface?

on October 4, 2005 05:08 AM
# Ward Seward said:

I've been using yahoo mail for about 8 years now and love having all my email availble anywhere I go. Recently I got a laptop and would like to IMAP my mail so I can do email on the train to and from work. Well yahoo doesn't support IMAP (even with the YahooMail Plus I pay for) and I really don't want to switch to a different email service. I know I can pop with the YMail Plus, but it's just a big pain to have to delete email twice. So, today I was playing around and discovered something interesting. If you ping imap.mail.yahoo.com you get a responce. Now I got that address, because the POP3 server is pop.mail.yahoo.com and I just took a shot in the dark to see what would happen. So, I went to http://mail2web.com/ and tried login into that server with my yahoo mail account. Guess what... I got a login failure message. Does this mean that Yahoo is working on IMAP service? Oh I hope so. I'd pay a little extra $ a year for that.

on October 6, 2005 12:27 PM
# Steve Yen said:

Can't believe the HalfBrain guys built a web spreadsheet back in 1999, when you still had to care about Netscape 4.x and friends. Kudos to them.

I'm running a new (2005) web spreadsheet service at http://www.numsum.com

Just another datapoint in the AJAX/web-software trend...

on October 6, 2005 08:46 PM
# Stewart Johnson said:

I've been using gmail for a while now. I was initially annoyed at not having IMAP, but I discovered that I'm quite comfortable using the webmail interface wherever I go. The other side benefit is that I have one less application loaded on my machine -- instead of Thunderbird I have a tab inside firefox open with my email (and the firefox gmail notifier extension running).

on October 8, 2005 10:17 PM
# Jeff Flowers said:

(This is a late comment but I wanted to contribute.)

I have been using Gmail since last July and I love it. I use Firefox at home and at work and combined with Gmail, I have a nice, consistant UI for my email. One thing I would suggest, however, is to use Gmail's POP3 access to download your email occasionally, which includes both received and sent email, so that you have a backup should you ever need it.

on October 9, 2005 10:09 PM
# Vincent said:

And the results of the 30 day challenge? Couldn't find them posted. Also, I've been a fan of Y! Mail for about 6 years. However, the past month has been a real bear. Trouble accessing Mail Plus account. I've seen more than a hundred of these "Temporary Problem Acessing your Account", lately. Anyone else experiencing this?

on October 29, 2005 07:48 PM
# Mark said:

I've been having the same issue, wherein I'm getting a ton of 'temporary problems accessing your account' errors, as well as general latency. Hopefully Yahoo remedies this quickly, as I've never had an issue in the past.

on October 30, 2005 10:51 AM
# quad said:

I also want the 'my domain' -> Y or Gmail + IMAP solution. Hey ho..

But for your web hosted office suite - there is a whole one, and it works. It's at:


Enjoy it

on November 2, 2005 09:29 AM
# eric said:

Say, interested to hear how your 30 day challenge turned out? Perhaps a quick blog entry on it?

on November 8, 2005 08:23 AM
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