Email's the dominant way of communicating on the internet, but our tools for dealing with it have barely changed in a decade. Here's the services I think will define whole new ways of working with email over the next few years, let me know any I missed in the comments:
One of the pioneers of email productivity, ClearContext's Outlook add-in offers dozens of targeted tools to help you get the information you need faster. It's progressing towards a whole new interface to email, one that's several steps beyond a plain list of subject lines.
I only recently came across Sherman Dickman and his team, but the mail client they're developing hits my buttons. Being able to search, sort and categorize your email through a modern interface makes it possible to do more in less time, and uncover hidden information. I'm looking forward to trying it once they open up the beta.
Unlike a lot of the other tools here, IWantSandy isn't a new way of reading your emails. Instead, you can control a lot of scheduling, appointments and tasks by emailing requests to their service. In geek terms, it's like a command-line interface through email to the system. Email's a great interface if you want quick and easy access to an application. Like Twitter, the minimalism it enforces keeps everything very simple. I'm hoping to see a lot more applications take this approach.
The team have been making great strides trying to do something different inside Outlook, with lots of innovative features like their contact ranks. Recently they've narrowed in on search as their primary focus, based on user feedback. That definitely makes sense, being able to search effectively is almost always the first killer app for any massive data set whether it's the web or email.
I recently covered the great features that OtherInbox offers for organizing your non-human email. Our inboxes have become the entry point for a lot of information other than personal messages, the only way to keep them useful is to have some sort of organizer like this. I wonder if there will ever be a standard for identifying and classifying these auto-mails, like the list-serv id?
Google's initial implementation of web mail was stunning, with their conversation sorting and search all spot on. I've been worried that they haven't built on that, but recently their Google Labs has shown some promising initiatives, bringing out new and useful services like canned responses.
A beta which garnered rave reviews from testers, but then disappeared into the vaults of Redmond never to be seen again, Knowledge Network analyzed email to identify experts. I'm hoping that the technology will resurface as part of Exchange or Outlook, it seems like a big step forward.
Similar to Knowledge Network, Tacit mine a company's email to identify experts, and connect them with people in need of help. I've heard very good things from users of their system, but it still seems little-known.
Focused on Enterprise Relationship Discovery, essentially building a LinkedIn style network automatically for an organization from their email patterns. Contact Networks were recently bought by Thompson, I'm hoping that those new resources will help them press forward building out their system. Like expertise, relationships between people are reflected in email content, and at the moment that useful information is being ignored by most organizations.
I have my own startup building new email tools for the enterprise, since I'm convinced there's a lot of new ground to cover. If you're at Defrag, come on over and I'll show you more.