What’s search got to do with it?

Tinaturner
Photo by StrahlemannBE

Back in the mists of time when I started this blog, my focus was on improving internet search. So how did I end up obsessed with email?

There were a lot of intriguing directions I wanted to take with search technology, but I realized the problems I was solving were nice-to-haves. I was producing vitamins not aspirin. As I thought about where my time actually went in my daily life I realized email was at the center of everything I did. I looked around Apple and saw how even at probably the best big software organization in the world, projects failed because the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing. Individual groups would create brilliant solutions to hard problems, but there was no way to share that knowledge with other teams dealing with the same issues. All the information’s locked up in email, but there’s no way to discover it with current tools.

It strongly reminded me of the web before Google arrived, and I knew that the lessons from that revolution would carry over to email. The hard part technically would be getting a large set of email into a modern database system, thanks to the obscurity of Exchange’s APIs. Once it was there, you could build search-like applications using the wealth of easy building blocks designed for the web development world.

My vision’s still about search and discovery. I just realized that email had by far the most painful user problems, which made it much more interesting than the web for me.

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