Let us take a look at how IMAP and other technologies can help solve the problems (outlined earlier) which we face with today’s email systems.
Spam: Filters on the server will allow for the automatic deletion of messages identified as spam. Filters can learn not just from the headers of the message, but also action taken by me and others in my company.
Cc: Sub-addressing, filters and shareable folders can help reduce the “occupational spam”. For example, when I am working on a project, the project leader can create a shared folder which is available for reading and writing by all (with deletion rights resting with the project leader). This way, all the team members can email to the folder, rather than to the individuals directly, thus reducing the Inbox clutter.
Viruses: By selectively downloading attachments, one can reduce the risk of viruses infecting the local system. Also, since IMAP allows for mails to be kept on the server (instead of the client), this can also help reduce the client machine getting infected. Ultimately, inspite of all the anti-virus software that is available, being careful about the kinds of attachments one opens can help reduce, if not eliminate, the risk of being attacked by a virus.
Storage: Since IMAP stores emails on the server, backing up mail becomes easier and the responsibility of the network administrator or the service provider. The user does not have to be worry about local backups.
Search: Since all emails are stored on the server, it is possible to deploy sophisticated search technology on the server, instead of on myriad clients.
Composing: The newer generation of mail clients and Web-based HTML editors will allow for the creation of formatted email.
Notifications: When mail is stored on the server, it becomes possible to alert the sender when messages are delivered and read. Alternately, as IM systems get integrated with email (at some point in the future), an instant message can be used to send the notification.
Security: There are standards like S/MIME and PGP which need to be used for ensuring security. Authentication is done via a login-password, and perhaps through a digital certificate.
Payment Model: For email which has multimedia email, the storage will need to be done by the sender. In this case, the email will need to be sent with a URL which points to where the attachment is. This way, there is only a single (and always updated) copy of the attachment. This reduces the burden on the recipient.
Instant Messaging Integration: This is tricky! Today’s IM systems are like the email systems of two decades ago. They have their own name spaces and are not interoperable. Like email systems first had gateways and then a common namespace, so will IM systems evolve in the years to come.