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“Hey” post mortem and a new life for email

I used to think Hey email was really great even though I was not, and never was gonna be, a user.

Because I love email and I’m so used to people hating on email and a service that made it easier for other people to use email was awesome.

  1. “But it’s proprietary!” That’s a crime where the only victims are its own users. Not the people those users are emailing with.
  2. “But there’s no IMAP!” Same deal there. IMAP is a tool that I use daily but if people have other ways that they prefer, that’s fine. Hotmail didn’t support IMAP for the first 17 years of its existence but people liked it fine (for some reason).
  3. “But the accessibility is bad!”. Same there. Accessibility bad… on the other side of the line. Doesn’t affect me when mailing with them.
  4. “But DHH’s politics!” But I didn’t know about that at the time.
  5. “But you can’t use PGP (at least not without writing a browser extension a la Mailvelope or FlowCrypt)!” Yes, that’s the problem. That’s why I soured on it 💔

What email needs

It sucks that most people think “Email is only for grandma and account registration”. (Here in Sweden we even have these completely wack-ass “Digital brevlåda” that can dra åt helvete jag hatar dom that is “digital mail” for bills and tax stuff that has zero security and zero interoperability.)

Email needs two things:

Better UX, especially for non technical peeps (I use notmuch which I wouldn’t recommend to any non-nerd, and nerds probably already know about it), and better encryption. PGP is fun and all, but double ratchet would be nice.

I’m gonna go into my notmuch nerdery below but that’s beyond useless for most people.

Ripping off Hey’s ideas

What Hey did right was that they created three completely different interfaces for

That was a great idea. (The fact that they could only dispatch on sender email address and not with more nuance is a limitation we don’t need to be bound by.)

As I said, I use notmuch (I use it with mbsync a.k.a. isync and nmsync), so I set up nmatom for newsletters and Delta Chat for personal communication.

Nmatom has been working great, use it every day, love it, but Delta Chat has had some issues.

The friends I’ve roped into using it hate that it often just keeps spinning and is unable to connect. I haven’t had that happen very often. They’re on Android and maybe that’s the common denominator for the issues?

I am frustrated with how it’s not good at creating threads. What I’ve been doing instead is that when I absolutely need a new thread, I start it from notmuch (after having hacked it to send the same headers and encryption that Delta Chat does), and then from then on continue the convo in Delta Chat.

It’s also not good at non-autocrypt PGP. And most of the PGP I use is non-autocrypt (thanks to WKD). It can decrypt just fine but not encrypt, making it a read-only xbiff app for those senders.

It’s also not as hackable as notmuch, which, thanks to it’s mdir interface, lets you import stuff other than from email. I had Fedi in there (thanks to scripts that wrapped the toot cli) and I had a thing where I could post-pone messages, re-receiving them later. Since I switched to Delta Chat as being my primary interface to email, I’ve lost access to those things.

The main reasons I use Delta Chat is that I switched from using a Linux desktop to an iPad, and I uninstalled the Apple mail app (without launching it even once) and use Delta Chat to get access to notifications and to the share sheet. I can access notmuch just fine over SSH (I’m typing this text in Emacs over SSH right now), but I can’t easily send pictures or get notifications. Maybe it’s time to soup something up with shortcuts and webpush notifications and gradually go back to notmuch full time? Spoons budget so tight, though.