Microsoft is putting Skype to work in your inbox after the Redmond-based company announced the rollout of a preview version of Skype for Outlook.com which brings the voice and messaging service to its email service.
The service is being introduced to users in the UK, with the US and Germany following “in the coming weeks”, with Microsoft promising that it will be available to all Outlook.com users worldwide “in the coming months”. Skype for Outlook.com will provide the full range of Skype services: voice calls, video calls and messaging.
Once a user links their Outlook.com account with Skype, they will be prompted to install a plug-in for Internet Explorer, Chrome or Firefox which enables the integration.
Announcing the tie-in, Microsoft explains that — as the old BT adverts used to say — ‘it’s good to talk’, and the new service is designed because a call is very often preferable to an email:
“Even with the best email service, sometimes text isn’t enough. We all face those situations where it’s just easier to jump on a call to talk something through. Sometimes that quick call can accomplish more than a long email reply. That’s why we are bringing Skype audio and video calling to your Outlook.com inbox.”
The company has provided a sneak peak at what users can expect in this video:
Headline image via Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
Highly anticipated iOS email app Mailbox launched nearly a month ago, but frustratingly, tens of thousands are still caught in its dreaded waiting list. If you’re looking for an alternative solution to inbox overload that you can use today, Taskbox, a hybrid email client and to-do list app, has reached version 2.0 and it just might do the trick.
Taskbox first got our attention during its public beta launch back in October. At the time, the app was simply too buggy and temporarily priced at a rather high $6.99, leading us to recommend that readers hold off for a more complete release. Then, following a canceled Kickstarter project and a $600,000 seed round from the Central Texas Angel Network, the app is back with a sleeker look, push notification support, full Gmail label support and numerous other features.
Now priced at $2.99, Taskbox operates similarly to Mailbox and most other mobile email clients, with one major exception: tasks. Instead of Mailbox’s “Later” and “Lists” functions, Taskbox truly commits to the idea of turning email into a manageable to-do list. The app lets you turn any email into a task by simply swiping it to the right.
If you’d like you can add more details to each task, like setting the priority level (1-5), due date and even assignee. By default, tasks will be assigned to you, but you can set anyone to be responsible for a task, and then keep track of what’s been completed by checking the “Assigned” tab. Tasks can also be sorted by received date, priority or due date.
Making the tasks feature more interesting, Taskbox also comes with a Dashboard view, which lets you view on-time and over-due tasks by priority, as well as the number of conversations in your inbox per account.
Other handy features include the ability to manually order emails, further encouraging a to-do list mentality.
Like Mailbox, Taskbox is currently Gmail-only. Taskbox doesn’t feel as sleek or polished as Mailbox does, but it makes up for that with a much more pervasive get things done attitude. Mailbox, on the other hand, feels much more general purpose, with its Boomerang-like features and lists.
If you’re itching for something better than what Gmail and Apple currently offer on the iPhone, Taskbox is worth checking out. How it will compare to Mailbox depends on how you use it, but if you still have 100,000 people in-front of you, $2.99 isn’t too much to swallow for something you might use every day.
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View original post here: Hybrid email client and to-do list app, Taskbox, launches new look and features to challenge Mailbox
Google just announced that users who participate in its Gmail and Google.com search field trial will now also see results from their personal calendar on Google’s search results pages. You can see these results by using queries like [what is on my calendar today] and [when am i meeting rip].
The field trial itself isn’t actually new, by the way. Google has been running it for quite a while now and it’s open for anybody who is interested in trying out some of these personalized search features.
Recently, Google also added information about your upcoming flights, restaurant and hotel reservations and scheduled events to this trial. To display these results, Google scans your Gmail inbox for relevant emails from OpenTable, Ticketmaster, Eventbrite and others. Some of this information, of course, is also used to power Google Now.
As Google’s senior vice president for Google Search Amit Singhal noted when the company first introduced this field trial, “sometimes the best answer to your question isn’t available on the public web—it may be contained somewhere else, such as in your email.”
The reason Google will likely continue to offer these features as an opt-in “field trial” for the time being is that it obviously needs to connect your search results, Gmail inbox and calendar to display these results on Google.com. Not everybody will be comfortable with the idea of Google scanning and using information from their inboxes and calendars, after all.
As with all the previous additions to the field trial, it’s only available in English and for U.S.-based users with a gmail.com address. Sadly, this also means that calendar results from your Google Apps work account won’t appear on Google Search anytime soon.
Inky, a new email software company, has accidentally found itself in the spotlight this week after hiding in plain sight for over half a year. The company is aiming to offer a better email experience on the desktop, and later on mobile and web, by providing an alternative email client that works with webmail providers like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail/Outlook.com, Apple iCloud email, or any POP or IMAP account, while also providing a feature set that targets today’s email pain points.
The company had not sought press, but a random post on Hacker News started to create some buzz for the startup, whose app was first available for download this May.
For those unfamiliar, Inky’s client software application isn’t just a nicer-looking email desktop experience. It’s also working to deliver practical innovations that will make email more usable, such as its inbox sorted by relevance; automatically created “smart views” that handle organizing everything from personal emails to daily deals to newsletters; and much more.
“It takes a crazy, rich guy to actually fix email,” laughs Dave Baggett, co-founder of Arcode, makers of Inky. “Big companies have all these corporate antibodies against innovation, and little startups – it’s a really challenging problem for a startup. It’s borderline not doable by startups. There’s so much basic stuff to get right.”
That’s true. Our hopes for an email savior have been dashed time and again, as email innovators either fold or exit via acquisitions – as was the case most recently with Sparrow, one of the few to really attract a serious following outside of webmail providers like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL and others. But Inky creator Baggett says he’s up to taking on the rather hefty task of fixing email. Baggett was the first employee at Naughty Dog, the game company behind the Crash Bandicoot games, and was the third co-founder at ITA Software, the travel software company acquired by Google for $700 million in 2010.
That latter experience, Baggett explains, is especially applicable to building a better email client. “The goal [at ITA] was to fix travel – travel search, in particular. Back in the day, you would call up a travel agent and they would type stuff into an ASCII terminal and it was really slow. We wanted to make a new platform for doing that better. We spent about five years working on that search product,” he says, “and there are a lot of parallels with email. There’s a lot of investment you have to make into the platform – especially if you’re doing it from scratch like we are, or like we did at ITA – which the users don’t see.”
For starters, he explains, email has to be highly available. That is, it has to work. All the time. Unlike social services, where things can go down on occasion, email has to stay online. “It’s part of your life, it’s like picking up the phone and not getting a dial tone,” Baggett says, describing what an email outage feels like. The bar is extremely high for a minimum viable product in this space, which is why so few startups can take on the job.
There are other things users don’t think about that go into building an email application, too – all those little functions that email has to provide, like handling different languages and character sets, managing attachments, providing real-time spellcheck, etc. These have to work, before you can even start layering on the new innovations like those that Inky is working to deliver.
In short, the vision at Inky is to start fresh with modern technology and build an application that can understand your email. In terms of feature set, that means things like the above-mentioned relevance sorting and smart views. Inky’s algorithms use machine learning to sort mail by importance – similar to Gmail’s priority inbox in spirit, but not broken up into separate sections (“Priority” and “Everything Else”) as in Gmail.
It also automatically organizes emails, tucking away social updates, daily deals, subscriptions and other non-critical messages, keeping them out of your inbox. And it can learn from your actions, too. For example, if you’re always moving messages from a particular sender into a particular folder, then it will start providing a button that lets you do that in one click. That’s the kind of thing power email users build rules to handle. “Filter rules are the usual programmer’s answer to this problem,” says Baggett, “but the problem is that for the vast majority of people, if you ask them to set up a rule they’re just going to be confused and their eyes are going to glaze over.”
So instead of rules, Inky will just learn. And that learning applies to not only discovering a message’s importance as sort of a binary function (important / not important), but also how important it is as related to others. For example, algorithms can identify who your boss is, or who’s family. This level of understanding isn’t yet fully developed in today’s beta product, but the overall goal is one of delivering that smarter inbox. “We like to call it email 2.0, where email is smart and knows what your mail is about, instead of being sort of a passive observer,” says Baggett.
The team at Inky is also working to find a better balance between Gmail’s conversation view and Outlook’s message list view. They’re working to make autocomplete smarter and faster. Inky’s inbox can already identify package-tracking emails. And the team is thinking about how to simplify client setup, so the process gets easier for today’s multi-device environment. To this end, Inky’s “zero setup” process involves a one-time configuration involving the creation of an Inky account and providing your email credentials. The security methods were the subject of debate on Hacker News, with the common refrain being “I’m not handing over my password,” as per usual. It’s not that simple, though, but explaining Inky’s security is a challenge that Baggett knows the company needs to figure out.
Inky takes security and privacy very seriously, he says, and they’re even consulting with crypto experts on the implementation. Details are explained here in the original thread, but the short of it is that Inky uses a method based on Zero-Knowledge Proofs where it proves to the server that you know your password without actually sending over your password. ”Silvio Micali was my academic advisor at MIT and he’s one of the pioneers of this class of techniques,” says Baggett. “This is all incredibly geeky stuff, but it actually matters in protecting people’s mail from hackers.”
Inky’s monetization plans haven’t been announced yet, but there are a variety of options, like providing a free service for users, and a paid option for companies, for example. Right now, however, the company is just focused on building the product. “We’re not going to compromise users’ privacy, though,” Baggett adds.
Bethesda, Maryland-based Arcode is self-funded, primarily through Baggett himself, and he has no plans to change that anytime soon. Windows and Mac beta builds are available for download here.
Sometimes you need to message a non-friend, and today Facebook starts testing if it can make a little money and cut spam by asking you to pay to ensure the recipient sees it. Facebook’s also changing everyone’s privacy settings into dynamic filters that let “relevant” messages through. These moves address Facebook’s old settings that caused important messages to sometimes end up unseen.
Previously, Facebook’s messaging privacy settings were cut and dry. You set your inbox to allow messages from everyone, friends of friends, or friends only. Any sender that didn’t qualify had their messages dumped in the “Other Inbox”, a little known sub-tab of the Inbox that most people rarely checked if ever. I had a friend who actually got a Facebook Message from a long-lost brother from the other side of the world but didn’t see it for six months because he wasn’t a friend of a friend.
Facebook’s trying to rectify this situation, and also make room for the new revenue stream it’s testing by replacing these hard settings with softer filters.
If you were set to accept messages from friends of friends or everyone, you’ll now have the “Basic Filtering” which means you’ll mostly see messages from friends and people you may know in you main Inbox. If you had restricted your Inbox to friends only, you’ll be switched onto the Strict Filtering which means you’ll mostly see messages from friends.
You’ll notice the word “mostly” in there. That’s gives Facebook the freedom to deliver messages to your main Inbox even if they’re from outside your preferred categories of senders if it thinks they’re highly relevant. For example, if you have the Strict Filtering setting and are in a group message thread with three friends and one non-friend, Facebook might allow that non-friend to reach your main Inbox because there’s a high likelihood you want to see their message.
The new filters help out with the new version of Facebook Messenger For Android that allows signups from people without Facebook accounts. If a non-Facebook user that has your phone number in their address book tries to message you, Facebook might let that through.
These filters also permit Facebook’s new paid messaging system that it begins testing today with a very small percentage of users in the United States. The idea is that by letting people pay $1 or some other small fee, Facebook knows a message is important to the sender. The price also theoretically deters spam because conversion rates on spam messages are so low that having to pay to deliver them makes it very tough to earn money. Facebook is also capping the number of paid messages you can receive per week at one for now to reduce the potential for abuse.
Facebook explains that “Several commentators and researchers have noted that imposing a financial cost on the sender may be the most effective way to discourage unwanted messages and facilitate delivery of messages that are relevant and useful.”
Some users will surely be annoyed by both changes. Most people don’t want Facebook meddling with their privacy settings without express consent. Others will likely be angry that anyone with some money to spare can pester them with Messages. In the end, these settings might actually help people with strict privacy settings see important messages, and reduce spam for people with relaxed settings, but we’ll have to wait and see what their impact is, and whether users are able to see their value through the fear.
Originally posted here: Facebook Tries Letting You Pay To Guarantee Message Delivery, Changes Messaging Privacy Settings