Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pmail - More Control, Less Resource and Better User Experience

As per the April 2010 Radicati Group study around 90 trillion emails are sent every year and approximate email users in the world are around 1.9 Billion. Unfortunately 90% of these emails are Junk. 

These numbers are alarming when we consider the inefficiency associated with the Productivity Loss, Network usage and Email Server usage. In present avatar email systems have huge redundancy. Consider the case when an email with 2 MB attachment is sent to 1000 people (email sent to groups/Reply all/Spams) out of which only 10 persons are interested or need those data. But everyone receives a copy; the transmission takes huge bandwidth, Email servers take huge storage and ultimately People need to spend thousands of unproductive hours to delete those emails.

There are other issues with email. In today’s form once you press the ‘Send’ button you don’t have any control to restrict the content. This is because all receivers get a personal copy in their local mail box and you don’t have access to Delete that data. But ideally the sender should have a control to restrict the data even if the sender sent the email by mistake (controlling confidential data).
From the receiver’s perspective controlling unwanted emails is a pain. Sometimes we receive unwanted emails as Reply Alls and then the chain continues – everyone pressing ‘Reply All’ and flooding everyone’s mailbox. This should be changed – if the receiver marks an email as ‘unwanted’ – no other email (Reply All emails) on the same topic should not reach the receiver’s mailbox.

Permission MAIL (pmail) – a new avatar of email

Here I propose a new permission based standard of email communication – Permission mail or Pmail. Here are the basic features of Pmail communication:
·         When a sender sends a Pmail he/she do not send the whole content of the email to everyone – only a lightweight version with the links to open the content is sent to everyone. The content is stored as a single copy in the sender’s email server. Multiple copies are not created and send to everyone.
·         If the receiver is not interested in the email he/she can delete the Pmail – Deletion of a Pmail means the read/copy access to the mail is lost. The original mail content is not changed/deleted.
·         If the receiver is interested he/she will have an option to copy the content in his/her local email server – for future reference. Ideally the receiver keeps a local copy only for Business critical emails (Just to ensure sender cannot in future revoke his/her access to read the Pmail).
·         If the receiver is not interested in the email he/she will have a control to avoid any further mail discussion on the same topic (no reply all emails will come to his/her mailbox). The receiver will also have control to mark the mail as spam and in that case no mail sent from the sender mailbox will reach his/her mailbox.
·         The sender will have control to restrict the access of an email sent. As only an access is sent to the recipient (instead of a local copy) the sender can control that access in future. Of course if the recipient has already read and then copied the mail to his/her local mailbox this feature won’t work.
·         In case someone ‘Reply/Reply all’ to the original Pmail a new single copy will be generated in the sender’s email server and everyone else will get a permission link to read the follow-up conversation.
·         Anyone can again delete the follow-up mail – which simply means the deletion of the access to the original copy.


There are various benefits to this plan – for every key stakeholder, Sender, Receiver, Email Service Provider etc. Here are some of the benefits:
·         Huge savings in resources by reduction of redundancy – Huge saving of Network bandwidths, Email Server Space utilization etc. Only the interested people will download the email and associated files to local folder.
·         Less pain from Spam mails – Today Spammers send huge amount of junk emails causing big wastage of email servers and network bandwidth. In the Pmail protocol spammers need to own the data – saving corporations lot of email server space and network bandwidth.
·         More Control for sender – You can still restrict even after hitting the ‘send’ button.
·         More control for the receiver – Better Customer experience– No junk reply all need to be entertained. No need for frequent mailbox cleanup.
·         Balance between Control and Contract – In this protocol both Sender and Receiver has Control over the Content. If the Sender had full control over the content he/she can refuse sending any such email – which can be against the contractual obligations between two parties. To avoid this receiver has a permission to create the local copy. At the same time Receiver has right to control the access of the data sent to unintended recipients.
·         Huge reduction in Carbon footprint by the reduction in server needs.

Implementation challenges

This is still a theoretical concept and needs Technical Implementation. Here are the known challenges for Implementation:

·         Agreeing on the new standard by all players – This is an epoch-making change the way we communicate through electronic mails. It will take time to convince all the players to move to this new Protocol. But considering the huge benefits a tipping point will be reached and it will become the ‘Next Practice’.
·         Initially the users may be uncomfortable in this new format – they may not like that they need to access a centralized place for accessing the email content. To reduce this risk the change needs to as transparent as possible to the user. The pmail can have one or two line content(summary will help reader to decide if the email is relevant to him/her) and then a link to read the full content. The users also need to trained for the new helpful features of Pmail.
·         There may be some security concerns around this model- Public access (although restricted to the recipients only) to email servers may not be acceptable to companies (fear to hacking). In my view the email can become a cloud service and with proper User Access Control the data security issue will be greatly reduced.
·         There may be ‘unknown unknowns’ – which can adversely impact the acceptance of this protocol. This fear is more after the so called failure of ‘Google wave’ although I feel ‘Google wave’ is a wonderful product and may have been killed due to Google Internal failures.

P-email adoption in business – private cloud model

Within an organization most of the emails exchanged are internal. This makes a good case for Pmail implementation as a Private Cloud based service. Private Cloud model will ensure that no Data security is compromised as well as resource duplication is reduced. Message Archiving and Storage takes major chunk of the cost for email. Reducing email content duplication in email servers can dramatically reduce this cost. At the same time it will save money on Network use, reduction of operational costs etc.
Once Pmail is successfully implemented within Business different Public email providers (gmail, yahoo etc.) will start using the model. But for Inter domain email exchange a common standard/protocol need to be created. Different organizations such as IEEE, W3 etc. need to be involved to create the mail exchange protocol.


just john said...

Here's a case, right off the top of my head, where this fails totally.

"Attention customers! Our server, including this newfangled Pmail one, will be down for emergency maintenance this evening. For support during this outage, call our techs at 555-1212."

Of course, nobody can read it while the servers are down.

just john said...

Next problem: How does a business prove that the version of the document on their pmail server is the ORIGINAL version? They own the server, so they could backdate the server's clock and then amend the document and then set the clock back to normal.