Desktop or Web Mail?

On Monday Mitchell posted the article Thunderbird — Differences in response to comments on her Email Call to Action post from last week about the Thunderbird’s Future. Mitchell points out that there seems to be a trend of folks moving away from desktop based e-mail clients (Outlook, Evolution, Thunderbird, etc):

  • Web mail usage grows. Younger generations in particular use other techniques.
  • There are many parts of the world where email is less common than in the US, Western Europe or Japan. For example, in parts of the world where Internet cafes are a major way of accessing the Internet desktop email is not the norm.

I have a couple problems with these above statements, mainly the first one. With you get a free e-mail account(s) with your domain and/or hosting. Anytime I sell a new domain, hosting package or even an additional e-mail accounts (if they want more than one e-mail box for their domain) I am almost always asked, “How do I set this up in Outlook or MacMail or Apple Mail?” (sadly I have yet to have anyone ask about Thunderbird). Further, when people are having trouble with Outlook and we suggest they access via the free web mail they almost always rather use their desktop e-mail client. However, I can see where Mitchel is coming from with the second point. Those customers who are wanting to use Outlook are in the US. Those in other parts of the world such as India and Australia never ask about setting up in a desktop e-mail client.

One more thing, if the trend for e-mail is shifting from desktop e-mail clients to web based (web mail) then why is Netscape developing Mercury to accommodate the Netscape 9 Navigator browser? Mercury is going to be a desktop e-mail client based off of Thunderbird.