How much do you interact with your emails? When you get an email from a marketing company or social media site, how often do you click through to the external site? For most people, the answer is: not much. We read email constantly but, when an email forces us to click through to an external site, enter a password, and complete a task, who really follows through? That is where PowerInbox comes in: the company’s software allows its partners to send emails to individuals that let the user complete tasks without ever leaving their email.
What exactly does that mean? It is a simple download that fits all major email providers - Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, and Outlook - that acts as an application platform to allow apps to run directly in an email message. This week, PowerInbox launched a new application programming interface (API), which will allow partner companies to develop apps that integrate their products and services into emails. So far, partners include: Groupon, Google+, Twitter, Comunicano, and TumbleMail, among many others.
With the new API, messages will not simply reach users, they will promote actual engagement. What that means in real terms is that when you get an email message from Facebook saying someone has sent you a friend request, you will no-longer have to click through the email, sign-in to Facebook, wait for it to load, and accept the friend request. Instead, the application will run in your email. You will be able to click and accept the friend request without ever leaving.
PowerInbox views itself as the ultimate optimizer. Users have historically battled to spend less time on email but that leads to more time on external applications. PowerInbox could turn your email into an engagement facilitator rather than just a messenger; email will no longer simply tell you what you need to do and provide the path, it will be the platform where you actually complete your tasks. “All this back-and-forth drains productivity and effectiveness,” PowerInbox CEO Matt Thazhmon said recently to BostInno. “PowerInbox lets people stay where interaction begins – inside emails.”
The change is potentially revolutionary. Eliminating time spent travelling to external applications to complete tasks will increase productivity. But PowerInbox’s new tools may also produce problematic dependence on email. Some users are already addicted to email, checking it throughout the day for both social and professional reasons. If people begin to complete all of their tasks inside of email, how much time will they spend in their inbox? How will companies distinguish between work-related emailing and personal tasks on company time?
Time will tell. PowerInbox is here to stay and both companies and users are sure to pounce on the opportunity to integrate their tasks within emails. But if the technology produces increased user dependence on, and engagement with, email, to unacceptable levels, how will companies respond?