Unified IM and Email

The notion of unifying IM and email (and VoIP) is almost to the point of being trite with me. The fact that my IM messages are not stored together with my email threads (GMail-like would be simply sublime) is simply ludicrous. Not being able to just type in an IM window to an “offline” “buddy” and have it automatically send an email is mind boggling.

Given that there is already the necessary components in SIP to do both IM and email, there is no reason that a common infrastructure shouldn’t be used. Using SMTP as it is used now should just be left in the corner to die like the mangy rabid dog it is.

The fact that Sendmail, Inc. sat idly by during the dot com days eating millions of dollars of VC’s money while the internet raced by them at the speed of light angers me to unpreviously seen levels. Every time that I see some of Sendmail’s VC’s (I know a couple of them very well) I want to kick them in the teeth for letting David Anderson take what could have been the investment of a lifetime and squander it on absolutely nothing. I should mention that the reason I’m so mad has nothing to do with any investment in Sendmail, Inc. (which, thankfully, I do not have) but has everything to do with the fact that I don’t have a unified messaging infrastructure.

And if you really want to see me livid, ask me about sm-X (Sendmail 10 which was previously being developed as Sendmail 9). Sendmail, in its current form, is some bastard turd left over from the “old days” of systems programming. When you look across your enterprise software, Sendmail is the only non-enterprise enterprise application. The only reason that it’s still there is that it does what it needs to do quite well and that it’s attached via some unseen force field to that belligerent admin that no one talks to that lives like a troll in the basement of most organizations. Attempting to wrangle Sendmail away from this admin would take the military force of a large first world country. I’m digressing. sm-X, rather than being the magic bullet that Sendmail, Inc. and the rest of the world needs to fix its messaging needs, is a complete rewrite in the same systems paradigm as the current Sendmail with essentially functional parity but they’re replacing the impossible to understand sendmail.cf language with some other obfuscated language. When I asked the sm-X project leading why in the world were they taking away the only reason that the entire world hasn’t migrated away from Sendmail (i.e. the sendmail.cf file and the savants that maintain it) and what was their plan to ensure that the existing installations would be able to migrate to sm-X his answer was: silence and no current plan. My current advice to the people of the world that use Sendmail is: RUN. Run and don’t look back. The migration path from Sendmail 8 to Sendmail 10 is going to be a nightmare and with the well known problems that have occurred in Sendmail’s past when moving just between minor revisions, you can just imagine what another full rewrite is going to look like. Start your own migration away from it now!

*heavy breathing* Alright, I finally got that all off my chest. I think I’m done for a while on the Sendmail topic. Did I mention that there’s no conformance or regression suite to speak of for Sendmail? How in the world can large companies be expected to migrate to Sendmail 10? Is Sendmail, Inc. going to test, certify, charge up the wazoo for support, etc to do the migration? I would think that there is something sinister going on under the Sendmail, Inc. covers with regards to this whole Sendmail 10 thing if I didn’t know for a fact that Sendmail, Inc. has no say over what happens in Sendmail (the code). They’re just as surprised as the rest of us are when crap comes down the pipe.

Whew! Now I’m really done.

OK, so this was more of a long rant than an idea. Sorry. *grin*



  1. You don’t actually believe this, do you? The messaging infrastructure that is SMTP has performed without *major* issues (i.e. no major failures due to the lack of insight by it’s developers) in the past 10 years. Sure, you’ll see viruses take out a company’s mail servers for a few days, but this likely will not impact the global SMTP “backbone” (if there is such a thing).
    Your notion of unified messaging means the amount of attack surface increases exponentially as you join more pieces into one large service. Now, as a programmer, you’ll always provide the argument that this is just due to poor quality control of code, etc. However, I would conject thoughts from experience that show there is no limiting method to make a large supersystem secure.
    Perhaps Sendmail didn’t have the vision to use their VC as you saw fit; but this doesn’t mean that their lack of vision has anything to do with the underlying transport systems they use!
    Sendmail != SMTP.
    Now to my objection of your philosophy on converged communications. There’s a good reason communications should NOT be converged: lifestyle pacing.
    It’s much easier to pace your workflow/life/etc. if you have designated contact methods to certain classes of associates. Perhaps I don’t want a board of trustees member to contact me directly via IM or VoIP; and instead ensure that email communication is perceived as the “best” way to “communicate” with me.
    It lets me go on about my day without interruption from the knee-jerkers, etc.
    If you could devise this into your system and develop total convergence with such preferences being available, I’d think you would be a millionaire.

  2. Whoa! Hold on there! I mentioned SMTP once and you’re implying that I’m equating messaging infrastructures (which may also include message queues), Sendmail Inc. and SMTP all in one big fat turd. This couldn’t be any father from the truth. You also have implied that I want some sort of automagic amalgamation of all of the messaging transports. This isn’t true either (except that I did mention that, in theory, you could with SIP).
    What I *do* want is the ability to search through all of my IM messages in-line with emails that I send (picture gmail’s threads but with your IM messages included). I want to be able to, on *my* decision, switch seamlessly between IM and email. This does not imply that the messaging transports need to be changed in any way. It simply means that I need a better app.
    And extend this one step futher and include VoIP and voice messaging. I should have, in one application (again, this does not imply one physical storage location or one communication transport) the ability to reference all of my email, voice mail, IM and anything other “messaging”.
    I should point out that the VoIP / voice mail + email is already occurring.
    Let’s take a step out of the quagmire that is today’s messaging and think about what you actually want to do. Personally, I want everything to be accessable to me in one place (meaning “application”) so that I don’t have this constant problem of looking in my inbox, then a plethera of folders, then my IM logs, then my voice mailbox, then my personal notes, then my PDA, etc, etc.

  3. Unified messaging

    I talked about unified messenging some time ago. It seems that Microsoft was thinking the same thing. Based on the reception of this, we will see if I was right about Sendmail, Inc. foolishly sitting on their hands….

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