Wednesday, 25 May, 2005

Switching Web email clients

My hosting ISP, Sectorlink, recently switched my Web mail from the old software to something called SmarterMail.  I'm not impressed.  In fact, I'm disappointed.  But at least the software is serviceable.  The last thing they switched us to was so horribly broken that they had to switch back after a couple of weeks.

The old Web client interface was minimal but complete.  I could check my mail, send messages, organize my mail into folders, and maintain a contact list.  It wasn't fancy, but it worked.  The simple interface meant that it worked on every computer I used to check my mail, even older machines that were running IE 4 and Linux machines running early versions of Konqueror.  That's all I wanted:  the ability to check my mail when I was away from home.

SmarterMail could be considered a "rich client."  It has tree views for messages, fancy options dialogs, content filtering and spam filtering, and cool-looking gadgets.  Oddly, it doesn't include the calendar feature that I think was in the old client.  It's all nice and pretty, but I'm pretty sure that the demands it places on the client browser will prevent it from working on older versions.  Not having tested that, I can't say for sure, but it certainly looks like there are some features that require later browser versions.

The new spam filtering looks kind of interesting.  Default filter settings use some heuristics to classify messages as good, "SPAM-LOW," "SPAM-MED," or "SPAM-HIGH."  I can disable or change those rules to fit my needs, and I can use Thunderbird's filtering rules to route suspected spam to my junk folder if I want.  Right now I'm looking closely at the SPAM-HIGH and will likely have it automatically deleted by the server after I satisfy myself that that there's very little chance of false positives.

Speaking of spam, I've seen an increased spam count that coincides with the introduction of SmarterMail.  That makes me think that in the past Sectorlink was doing some server-side spam filtering without telling me about it.  I can't prove that, of course, but it does make me suspicious.  I'm doubly suspicious, because Debra has noticed increased spam recently as well.  I thought I asked Sectorlink about that last year when I noticed a dramatic decrease in my spam count that I eventually wrote off to the bouncebacks that people got when my mail account disappeared for a full day.

All things considered, I'd rather have my old Web client back.  It worked on every system I tried and did everything that I wanted it to do.  The spam filtering and fancy UI that comes with SmarterMail just doesn't seem worth having to re-learn my Web email client.