Sergey Brin, Steve Gillmor and Gmail

Steve Gillmor in conversation with Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin in eWeek on Gmail:

Gillmor: Obviously, there are privacy implications of Gmail that I do want to touch on, but I’m just as interested in the opportunities for programmability of this technology. If you could establish an API for this, that would be something really spectacular.

Brin: That’s an interesting idea. I haven’t thought too much prior to your mentioning it now, but there are certainly a variety of processes that I have in the past done with Unix, because I can basically program it to do all kinds of things with my e-mailforward certain messages automatically, erase other ones automatically, trigger programsand it would be interesting to consider doing those here.

G: Much in the same way that you’ve established keyboard shortcuts, you could establish macros, etc.

B: Yeah, that’s a very good point. One thing I’ve been talking to the team about is to be able to save your searches and have easy access to them. For example, I have a search that I often useshow me the unread messages in my inbox that were sent to me directly rather than to a mailing list that I’m on. I use that one pretty often, but it would be nice to have it to save and maybe have it attach to a label or something like that.

G: Going back to the notion of an API, something like 90 percent of all collaboration applications are actually running on e-mail.

B: Yeah, I can definitely believe that.

G: And that’s not necessarily such a good thing, of course

B: Because it has lots of limitations

G: Given some of the discussion about privacy and rights, if you could provide API access to those rightswho could read, write, etc. give that to the user, they could then turn around and use that as a way of arranging relationships between themselves and others, essentially bartering their rights, access to their information, in return for information that’s coming to them.

B: I think that’s an interesting idea. We try to be as upfront as we can be, but obviously if their clients, or Web browsers and whatnot, could negotiate these things for them, then we could be even more upfront.

G: It would take the conversation, if you will, away from whether it’s the cloud that’s making those decisions and put it in the hands of the user.

B: That’s true, but to be fair, even as it is, we try to make the decision as clear to the user as possible.

G: It also compares favorably to my corporate e-mail.

B: Well, thank you. There are some things that it is currently missing as compared to corporate e-mailfor example, disconnected operationthough we do plan to provide things like POP3 and IMAP support, which should help that.

But we initially wanted to make sure we have something that was definitely better than all Web mail services, and perhaps, just perhaps, it will also be good enough for a lot of people to use instead of a corporate mail service.

Or they can use both, because they could just forward their messages to Gmail from their corporate e-mail, or the other way around. That way when they’re traveling and don’t have their computer with them, they can just use the Gmail version, and when they are at their desk, they can still use their corporate mail.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.