Free software webmail (was: Re: Free software and priorities?)

Paul Tansom paul at
Tue Sep 25 22:41:37 UTC 2007

** Alex Hudson <home at> [2007-09-25 21:42]:
> On Tue, 2007-09-25 at 21:05 +0100, Paul Tansom wrote:
> > All good projects, but none are alternatives to Gmail since they are
> > purely the application and not a service. Things like Operamail,
> > Hotmail, etc. are comparable to Gmail, but clearly no better on an
> > ethical stand point.
> To be honest, the only thing stopping people offering them as a service
> is time and expertise: with stuff like the Amazon platform, it's
> extremely easy to deploy free software web mail at cost. It's
> theoretically very easy to take a piece of free software, offer it as a
> service, and you don't need to deploy any infrastructure.
> The big difference is likely that very few people are going to want to
> pay for web mail. And if you want something for free, there's a quid pro
> quo - in the Google case, advertising (or whatever). So, if you want to
> offer a service based on free software, you're going to have to
> subsidise it heavily to get it off the ground.
> I have to say, personally I don't see an ethical issue in there in free
> software terms. If Google were deploying Squirrelmail instead of their
> custom job, it would have all the same problems. If you want the service
> for 'free', you give up something non-monetary.
** end quote [Alex Hudson]

Agreed. I personally don't have any issue with Gmail, and I do use it
myself, twice over actually as I am in the process of migrating one of
my ADSL connections to an ISP that uses a branded Gmail service. The big
thing about a free webmail service is how you pay for the disk space and
bandwidth required. That bit was more mentioned in passing with
reference to a bit not quoted from earlier in the thread :) My use of
Gmail is actually quite low though, as I prefer to use my own domains
for email, which sit on my own servers that are now running Roundcube
(prior to that SquirrelMail, but I never found that a particularly
attractive package to use - and that's not a reference to its lack of
graphical appeal!).

Paul Tansom

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