4 Reasons Why Mozilla's Raindrop Matters

labs-logoraindrop-footer-sWhat’s important to remember in light of the launch of Mozilla’s Raindrop, which the company calls an “open experiment in web messaging,” is that for many users, email is broken. Inboxes are flooded with useless information as botnets tighten their grip on the broadband infrastructure, alternative ways to send and view messages are proliferating, and it’s just difficult to stay on top of missives that matter.

“Most of us receive messages from many online sources — email, instant messages, tweets, Facebook messages, links,” writes Mozilla Chair Mitchell Baker on her blog.  Raindrop is a new kind of message manager, capable of sifting and sorting messages in many ways. From its open-source core to the very problem it tries to solve — frustration over email glut — it will be important to many users. Here are four reasons why.

Change Your POV. In its current incarnation, Raindrop lets you sort and repackage views of messaging threads from various sources, including mail, Twitter and RSS, producing alternative views of message threads like this aerial one:

You can also use Raindrop to produce unique, sender-centric views of messaging threads, among others. The team behind Mozilla’s Thunderbird email project created Raindrop, and worked on making its message sorting uniquely capable of sifting important information to the top.

It’s Pure Open Source. Mozilla knows a few things about rallying a community behind an open-source project, and is aggressively trying to build one around Raindrop. How Raindrop looks at this early stage is less important than the fact that it’s been released into the wild as open source, and has an API that invites dashboard customization. In the open source arena, that almost always means forking and variations on original themes.  Could you eventually choose from among 20 customized messaging dashboards based on four forks of Raindrop? That’s open source in action, just as there are many variations on Mozilla Firefox’s browser core.

It’s a Messaging Aggregator. Let’s face it, people have been talking about the universal inbox for years — the one where we get all our information perfectly sifted and sorted so that we can go to one place for everything we need. Yeah, right. The opposite has materialized. That’s part of the evidence that email isn’t working properly. As is also true of Google Wave, Raindrop rounds up messages from everything from social networks to RSS feeds in smart ways. Especially as open-source code jockeys tweak it, we could see a much better aggregation model for messages than we’ve ever seen before.

It’s Aimed at Mobile and More. Are you completely happy with the way you get your messages on the go? I’m certainly not. There is a lot of room for more intelligent, flexible ways to view messages while on the move, and to even get alerts based on intelligent message sifting. Raindrop will head in that direction. “We intend to support front-end applications of various kinds (including mobile),” reports the Raindrop team in announcing the project. Mozilla is also aiming Raindrop at multiple browsers, not just its own, in keeping with its open web belief system.

Raindrop is an open-source project in its infancy that may eventually look and work quite differently from the way it does now. It represents a challenge to the development community to rethink our approach to managing messages and produce something better.