Time to Unlock Shared Email

I had a worrisome email today from one of my favorite people, a colleague in many ways and a very influential blogger, in which she asks:

Hi Tim, are there any changes planned to Email Center Pro soon?  Such as permissions to view/handle certain messages?
The first thing that worries me about the question is that I’d love to just say “yes, that’s coming” because that’s by far the best way to answer any user request. Pleasing the user is a great way to lead software development. However, in this case at least, the real answer is “no, we’re not going to, and for some very strong reasons.”  And it’s not just the real answer, it’s also the right one. Email Center Pro has a mission: better business email management. And that means, for us, doing some things different than what most people expect, not because we want to, or because we think it’s cool, but because there’s a deep business background to it. It’s simply about transparency; and accountability. We think we do a lot of people a favor by making the distinction between shared business email accounts, like the famous info@ or sales@ or help@ email addresses; and personal email. There’s Hotmail, and Yahoo! Mail, and Gmail, and many other providers to manage your personal email, and, more importantly, your employees’ personal email. Furthermore, Email Center Pro doesn’t need to replace the normal email server that has everybody’s “sort-of” personal business email — the john@example.com and mary@example.com email addresses. It’s not just transparency, either; it’s also a matter of managing information and communications and contacts with customers. What happens in the real world, with email management, is emails relate to issues and customers and projects and such, and should be managed as bits of information, and messages in communication that are part of the whole business process. And in the business process we shift things from one person to another, frequently, as a matter of getting things done. For example, think of the email triage function, which comes up quickly even in small business. An email that comes in to info@example.com or sales@example.com needs to be dealt with by Ralph or Mabel, depending on content, context, and function. Email Center Pro includes the function of assigning emails to people, and moving the responsibility. If things were locked, that wouldn’t work. And, then, on a more theoretical level, whether we like it or not, our business email isn’t really private. The system operators can see it, if they want to. And it’s come up in court cases. And given that email isn’t really private, is it good management to make it look and feel private, even when it isn’t? Sometimes I think — as a person, not as a developer or publisher or employee of the publisher of Email Center Pro — that our users are very much better off managing their business email in an environment that keeps it plainly clear and obvious that email is business documentation, public by definition. It reminds me of some email I sent, many years ago now, to several of my children who were then still in college. I reminded them that email felt private, but really wasn’t. That they should always remember that it can be forwarded and, potentially at least, misused. Given that this is the case, maybe it shouldn’t feel private. So it is my personal opinion that it’s a good thing if more people get comfortable with matching the metaphor of email — business email, transparent, accountable, and manageable — to the email interface. That’s one of the missions of Email Center Pro. 2020 Update: That was then; this is now. Outpost has replaced our old email management offering. Planning to use email for your business? Keep it organized with Outpost. 
  • Most teams struggle to manage their info@ or support@ inboxes. Missed messages, duplicate replies, and inbox confusion are common because traditional email wasn’t designed for teams. That’s why we built Outpost: to make your shared inboxes truly collaborative.
  • With Outpost, your team can work together in the same inbox, without sharing passwords or stepping on each other’s toes. Outpost is simple because shared email should be. Team up on email, stay organized and take better care of your customers.
  • If you’re interested, you can start a free trial of Outpost today, or schedule a custom tour to learn how Outpost will help you save time and get more done.


  • Tim Berry says:

    Thanks Larry; good to know. I've corrected that now, and I hope it's not too late for John and Mary. Tim.

  • Larry Sheldon says:


    The standards (see IETF.org) provide the domain name "example.com" for use in documentation where a generic, non-real name is needed to illustrate something.

    There might be a "john at yourcompany dot com" whose address has now been scraped by the spammers.

    john@example.com is guaranteed (for selected values of "guaranteed" not to be a real address.

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