Shortmail – a refreshing alternative to ‘normal’ email.

chris .

The meteoric rise of micro blogging with Twitter has given internet users a new focus – to be clear and concise within 140 characters. It has resulted in a strip down of communication to its bare-bones core message.

Shortmail.com is a service from 410Labs which attempts to bring this focus to emails by limiting mail in and out of your account to just 500 characters. Initially this sounds very restrictive –but imagine how much time you spend reading through emails when the actionable points in them could be summed up within a single paragraph rather than five. Also, the character limit is great for thinning out spam from your inbox.

You might want to think twice about using Shortmail.com for business – it may cause a sender frustration if they need to send you more than 500 characters or an attachment.

This is what they are sent if they try:

Hey, your message is too long for Shortmail!

At Shortmail, we limit all messages to 500 characters to keep email simple. Your message (“(No Subject)”) to “Matt” <@shortmail.com> is 117927 characters long, which is just 117427 characters too big.

Your message can still get delivered – just use this link to edit it and send it on its way. Keep it under 500 characters this time, ok? Thanks!

The sender can then click the ‘Edit’ button to be taken to the Shortmail website to edit and resend their email. You can still access any longer emails sent to your Shortmail account within a ‘Quarantine’ folder. Whilst it is perhaps not a system you would want to use for your business, it could be a great asset for internal communications, or to use personally.

Incoming attachments are a no go – it returns the message to the sender with the message above, as it converts the attachment to raw code – taking it automatically well over the 500 character limit. Outgoing attachments are handled using Dropbox or Evernote – essentially Shortmail does not support attachments, but rather utilises these existing services to add a link to the file you want to send within them.

The service definitely draws its core values from Twitter, and indeed, if you have a twitter account, your @shotmail.com email address using your twitter handle is automatically reserved. If you don’t have twitter, you can still signup and use the service – you are given an @shortmail.me email address instead.

Shortmail could be a great more personable alternative to a website contact form, and you can relax a bit about having it as a clickable mailto on your website – spam will be mostly sifted out by the character limit! Just make sure you also let people know to keep it short-n-sweet!

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