The webmail observation

Interestingly, out of Gmail, Yahoo Mail! and Hotmail, only the first one does not append advertising messages to actual emails.  I am rather surprised by this, given we just started with the year 2008.

I remember back when Hotmail and other webmail services were just starting, it was a common practice to monetize on advertising banners shown to webmail users, while also embedding advertising messages into outgoing emails.  That was a really ugly situation, but a lot of people suddenly got free access to email, which was great, so we lived with it.

While free webmail has always been useful, most web people prefer to have a mailbox under their own domain.  Or at least they preferred before Gmail came into play.   Nobody ever took you very serious if you were communicating using a well known free webmail service.

When the coolness of your own domain started to grow, many webmail services tried to meet the needs of their users and attempted to hide the obvious facts of them being free webmail services.  This was the time when webmail services registered tonnes and tonnes of domain names and offered their users a choice of any for their mailbox.  It was also the time when some stopped embedding advertising into outgoing emails.

For a few years, I stopped caring much about this issue, since I got a proper mailbox, as did many other people with who I communicated.  I knew of webmail existence, but it was mostly outside of my scope of interests.   Until Gmail came out.

With Gmail, Google changed the perception of webmail once again.  Two things that they did differently were AJAX interfaces, which provided for a much faster and more responsive user experience, than traditional web sites; and plenty of space.  If I remember correctly, Gmail offered something like 1 GB mailboxes.  That was in time when most other webmail services were giving out 10 or 15 MB.  “You will never have to delete an email message ever again“.

Google managed to make webmail popular again.   They implemented most of the good stuff, ignored mistakes, and came up with a few smart things of their own (conversation grouping, labels instead of folders, etc).  And, of course, one of the things that they did right was the advertising.  While reading mail, users see ads for related stuff – in clean, text, no blinking manner.  And no outgoing message is ever modified by Gmail to include advertising or to suggest that recipient should  give Gmail a try, or any of such nonsense.

I move all my mailboxes to Gmail.  This my only email interface these days.  And I’m pretty used to it now. And a lot of other people are back to webmail. And so it amazes me to no avail that some web services still don’t get it.  After all this time and all these lessons.  They still including their ads in outgoing messages.  This is really weird…

To all of you using Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, et al, – you should really give Gmail a try.  At least you’ll know for sure that your recipients will get messages exactly as you send them.  No more, no less.

FedEx sucks again

I had yet another negative experience with FedEx today.

I need to sand a small package with 6 beer glasses to Moscow, Russia. I wanted them to be delivered fast and for delivery to be paid by the recepient. I wasn’t sure that FedEx could provide me with the service so I passed by their office a couple of days ago and asked if they could do it.

After I spent about 20 minutes explaining to the clerk what it was exactly that I wanted, she told me that there shouldn’t be any problem. The only thing she wasn’t sure was the taxes that Russian customs office would ask to pay. I said that those shouldn’t be much as the package itself is a gift and has a very low value of about 15 CYP.

I also asked if FedEx could provide me with any form of packaging as I wasn’t sure that I could pack the glass appropriately myself. FedEx doesn’t do packaging, which looked a bit stupid to me, but who am I to judge.

I found the proper packaing myself and came with the box today expecting it to be sent. There was a different clerk in the office this time. I explained again what I wanted. 10 minutes later she confirmed with the headquarters that fragile items in general and glass in particular are not accepted by FedEx.

I stood there for three minutes with the WTF expression on my face and then left. Shocked. Was it so difficult to tell it to me the first time? I mean, I made myself clear at all times that I am about to send some fragile items. What are they thinking over there? And why not take it? What is so different with fragile items? All you have to do to deliver them properly is to not throw them hard on the floor. Putting fragile packages on top of the baggage heap is not even as important.

I don’t know… This doesn’t feel right…

SPAM isn’t all that bad

Where I look on the web, everyone is complaining about SPAM. “My Inbox is full of SPAM”, “I am lacking behind because of SPAM”, “My site was SPAMed” and stuff like that. I beileve that everything in the world has its good and bad sides. Such situation with SPAM when everyone is complaining about it is one-sided though. I believe there is some good to be found. Here is my small contribution.

Every time comments in my blog get SPAMed I feel good. You might think that I am such a pathetic loser that SPAM comments are the only kind that I get, but that’s not true. I am soon to celebrate a 1000th comment (that’s a hint by the way). The reason for my joy is my choice of software. Since I migrated to WordPress SPAM stopped bothering me. At all. When yet another script comes in and leaves two or three dozen comments about “online casino” or “morgage bonus” all over my posts, all I have to do is click on “Awaiting moderation” link in the administration interface, scroll down to the “Mark all as SPAM” link, click it, and than click “Moderate comments” button to submit my moderation. That’s it. It probably takes me less time to discard all of these comments than it takes that script to generate and post them. Fantastic!

But my blog SPAM is not the only kind that provides me with good mood. Occasionally, a SPAM message would get through my anti-SPAM software that protects my mailbox. Since these are usually singular messages which are easy to identify and delete, I can afford some time to look inside. More often than not they are pretty funny. Consider this one from today.

Date: Sat, 9 Jul 2005 09:01:08 -0700
Subject: Your password has been successfully updated

[-- Attachment #1 --]
[-- Type: text/html, Encoding: 7bit, Size: 0.5K --]

   Dear user leonid,

   You have successfully updated the password of 
   your Mamchenkov account.

   If you did not authorize this change or if you 
   need assistance with your account, please 
   contact Mamchenkov customer service at:

   Thank you for using Mamchenkov!
   The Mamchenkov Support Team

   +++ Attachment: No Virus (Clean)
   +++ Mamchenkov Antivirus -

[-- Attachment #2: --]

Isn’t it funny? First of all, I am the administrator of domain and all services related to it. So I know that this is crap even before I finish reading the Subject line. Oh, wait. I actually know that this is crap even before I finish reading the From email address, because, guess what, there is no such email as And, of course, there is no such thing as “The Mamchenkov Support Team”. Or “Mamchenkov Antivirus”. That all is just pure fun! It’s like I would be trying to convince you that you are not you, but that I am you, although I am obviously not. :)

Now that I am thinking about it, I was wrong saying that the Web remembers only the bad stuff about SPAM. There was a lot of laughter on that Slashdot story about some African cosmonaut left on the orbit. And there was this poetry project that was using phrases from the SPAM messages composed into poems.

What’s your SPAM fun story?