Zenbe - Webmail Zen?

February 08, 2009

Image representing Zenbe as depicted in CrunchBaseAs most of you probably know, I’m quite fond of my GMail Inbox.  Due to its popularity there exists an impressive array of add-ons, extensions, scripts and tools to enhance the service even more.

But even though I’m fond of GMail, that doesn’t stop my fickle mind from constantly searching for something that may be better.

A tool that might be is Zenbe. Breaking down the name into its components, it suggests that its users will be in a Zen-like state using their service. I’ve never bought into the whole Zen thing (that’s why I’ve never even attempted to reach what David Allen calls a “mind like water”), but I do have to concede that Zenbe does a few pretty nice things.

Posing as a webmail-service, it actually combines all your communication needs. While you do get a free email-address when you sign up, you might as well keep using any address you’ve had before, provided it offers pop3 support. Fortunately, GMail does, so I was able to simply plug it into Zenbe.

The webmail side of Zenbe offers the usual shenanigans of later services, including the tagging of mails and conversation view of your messages. But that’s where the similarities end and the awesomeness starts.

In addition to the webmail part, Zenbe offers a plethora of tools that are designed to simplify your life. First of all, they offer a “Files”-view, displaying all the attachments you’ve received via mail, with the option of viewing certain filetype directly inside Zenbe.

Next up is a calendar, which is always handy to have right by your mail. The calendar is rather basic and doesn’t offer as much bells and whistles as Google calendar, but it lets you import calendars from wherever you want.

And then there’s Zenpages. Basically, Zenpages provides space for projects. You can add emails, tasks,  links, maps, videos, discussions and even an RSS feed. These pages can then be shared with and edited by whomever you like, regardless of whether they’ve got a Zenbe account or not. It’s a great way of sharing information and collaborating with friends and teams.

And since you’re already pretty overwhelmed by what Zenbe can do, I’ll just quickly fill you in on what the sidebar does. It holds your contacts, which can of course be imported from your other webmail services as well. Another tab holds a task list system. You can create as many lists as you like, lists you create in Zenpages also show up there. And then there’s Twitter, Facebook and GTalk ingetration, meaning you’ll never have to leave your Zenbe Inbox to check on your contacts from all over the web.

Now, the whole thing isn’t just very functional, the GUI is also very beautiful. Which could be where parts of the whole Zen-thing come in.

However, regardless of all its functionality and beauty, Zenbe has one big downside that makes me hesitant from using it as much as I would like to. It’s not a big player. The thing is, communication is the key to everything we do online nowadays. Giving that into the hands of a company that might not be here a year from now is just too risky.

In addition, I read through their blog and encountered this posting in which they are elaborating on future implementations of Zenbe. They disclose that new iterations of Zenbe will be focused on getting businesses on board. As a private user, that sounds just a bit too discouraging from future use, considering that new features will most likely be implemented in the business, rather than the private version.