"The Gmail Notifier is an application that alerts you when you have new Gmail messages. It displays an icon in your system tray to let you know if you have unread Gmail messages, and shows you their subjects, senders and snippets, all without you having to open a web browser."
Wait a minute - I thought the whole point of Web Browser based software was that it ran on an effing web browser!
Do you see the problem here? Web based applications eventually turn into desktop software applications - thin clients. The web browser isn't smart enough for a human - a human needs something running on his operating system, not in his web browser. Every time someone tries to make a really good web based software application, they end up extending it so far that they eventually need to add essential pieces of the software in non-web browser based extensions - rendering the web based application useless without the help of real desktop OS software.
Same thing happened with Google Earth. They couldn't make google earth run in the web browser - they could only make a portion of it run in the browser. The real google earth software application is a real software application - a thin client that connects to the net, not a web browser application.
(Not that some pure web browser applications aren't convenient and useful, even if crippled.)
The next thing you know, there will be this extension you can use for Google Gmail that allows you to use Mozilla Thunderbird to send email through your Gmail account. Oh shoot, but wait - why use gmail at all if you are going to use Mozilla Thunderbird which has POP3/SMTP capabilities. Reinventing the wheel as a square box isn't really that clever, Google.
Okay, so the whole idea of Google is that they drive traffic to their website.. so a web browser based email client is perfect for that. If they offer POP3/SMTP email services then it means people won't see their ads in the browser. Do you see the agenda here - advertisements on your LCD screen. I'm fine with most of Google's ads since they are usually relevant or not too annoying - but since every site has google ads on them now I have to admit I'm a bit sick of seeing them everywhere.
Of course most folks don't need the features of a real email client like mozilla thunderbird or outlook, and this is why gmail is successful.
To me, Google is becoming a little silly with all their hyped Ajax stuff though. Most of their Ajax stuff is cool not because of Ajax, but it is cool because of all the non-ajax desktop software applications like this gmail notifier and the google search bar add-ons for web browsers. At least for me, I find email to be useless without a notification system at the bottom of my screen telling me I have new mail. And if a web browser could do that, then the web browser would be really bloated with I don't know what web 3.0 or web 4.0 features.
Yeah, all the really cool google stuff isn't web based, it's desktop application based binary stuff. Or at least, the google stuff that is cool is a combination of web browser based technology in addition to non-web browser based technology. So everybody can stop thinking about GoogleOS, because the day GoogleOS loads in my web browser is the day I lose my freedom.
One advantage of google mail is that it may be more reliable than most SMTP/PoP3 accounts if google has more reliable servers. As you can see I'm trying not to be too biased - I do see google mail benefits too.
The ajax hype.. what about thin clients?
If we are going to have desktop applications running that tell us we have new mail at gmail though, is it really a web based ajax application any more? Even if the web browser had some notification system that Gmail could tap into and pop up a message when you have mail, would you really want to fire open your huge bloated web browser?
Remember the cool thing about Gmail notifier is that it "shows you their subjects, senders and snippets, all without you having to open a web browser". Without having to open a web browser? Wow - big step forward... Ajax is browser based, right? So this cool Gmail notifier allows me to skip passed all the Ajax, since Ajax is so great.. and I get to use a thin client.. and did I mention that I don't have to go through ajax and that I'm actually now officially using a thin client and not ajax?
This is the problem with web based software - it eventually reinvents the thin client, and in many cases web based software that claims to be web based software, really isn't web browser based software at all.
Don't I have anything nice to say
What's good about web based applications is that you can access them from a hotel if you are on a trip somewhere.. and in emergency for example you could check your gmail as long as you could find a web browser somewhere in the hotel. But this is kind of a sign of attachment - it's like the people who chain themselves to cell phones even if they are in a hospital or in a grocery store. Do I really have to check my gmail in the middle of Hawaii when I'm on a vacation - and why am I on a vacation if I am checking my email? However, if you were on a business trip and you had access to only a web browser and they wouldn't let you use POP3/SMTP, I can see the advantage.
I'm also a web developer myself, and I do see the usefulness of web based applications.. it just is kind of ironic that anything advanced ends up involving some sort of non-web based software in the end - I've never been a web browser based purist and I've never wanted my operating system to be inside a web browser. This is my point. There is fine balance, and there are compromises.