A colleague recently sent me this post by New York Times reporter Saul Hansell to the Times' technology blog, Bits, about a new concept called “Inbox 2.0.” Hansell explores the idea that your inbox may no longer be ranked purely by when messages are received, but by the relevance of the sender. Needless to say, this could have a big impact on legitimate commercial email not to mention spam.
In many ways, I like this idea even though this kind of change can feel very threatening. Anything that helps recipients make sense of all their inbound communications is a good thing in the long run. For instance, a message from your boss, your spouse or your project leader might climb right to the top of your inbox, whereas messages offering college degrees (that your spam filter misses) would live down at the bottom. As a consumer, I find the idea somewhat compelling.
The idea faces some definite hurdles. For instance, while I absolutely want to see my e-boarding pass from Delta the moment it comes in, the latest promotion from Delta may not be as urgent. It’s not clear to me how an inbox provider could distinguish between these two extremes. Additionally, older ideas like challenge/response have never been widely adopted, even though they offer a more robust solution to managing the inbox.
Only time will tell whether this is the beginning of a paradigm shift or just another good idea to add to the “never reached critical mass” heap.