Email, to hear seemingly every technology writer tell it, has been waiting to be disrupted for the last decade or so. Enterprise-focused social networks like Yammer promise to kill email’s dominance in the workforce; messaging apps threaten to replace email on consumers’ smartphones; and hermits pledge to send messages via smoke signals and bird calls instead of email. (I might be making that last one up.)
Yet email continues to thrive despite every would-be disruptor. The “professional social networks” flood our inboxes. Email apps are becoming less like the dreaded monstrosities they once were and more like the messaging apps meant to replace them. Hermits keep doing whatever it is they do.
Earlier this month I wrote about Ping, a soon-to-be-launched email client made for iPhone owners who would rather use WeChat than Gmail. Ping users are able to send images, video chat, and voice calls via the app, which combines email’s infrastructure with a messaging apps’ features and design. Or, as I put it before: disruptor, meet the yet-to-be disrupted.
Eightloops is trying to accomplish something similar with Unibox, a Mac-only email client that was today released as a public beta. Instead of releasing yet another smartphone-focused email app, Eightloops is building the email product it needs to get shit done on the desktop.
“We see handling mail as a productivity thing, and it’s much easier to write complex emails or [respond to] work-related stuff on your desktop computer,” says Eightloops co-founder Philipp Seibel. “It’s too simple to say that [mobile apps are] a companion app, but on the phone especially it’s more like a mail viewer.”
Eightloops began working on Unibox full-time in January — it was previously a side project that the company worked on when it wasn’t bogged down by contract work. The idea for the app, however, predates its development by a few years and can be traced back to the original iPhone.
“The initial idea for Unibox was, I had the first iPhone and I saw the SMS app and thought ‘Wow, this would be really great for email,’” Eightloops co-founder Lasse Jansen says. “The iOS messages app was certainly an inspiration for Unibox.”
Unibox is a passion project for Eightloops. Seibel and Jansen say that they don’t intend to raise money to build the app, and are self-financing its development with their savings. They wanted to build a better email client that focused on people instead of messages or timestamps — much like the chat services installed on so many smartphones — and are doing it.
“We would probably make more money if we developed a smartphone app,” Seibel says. “But the main thing is that we try to solve our own needs, and 80 percent of our day is spent in front of a Mac, essentially, and not in front of a mobile phone.”