Despite the lure of web 2.0 trinkets, email remains one of the web's killer apps. Gmail and Windows Live Hotmail might rule the roost at the moment, but they're not short of competitors.
GMX, owned by webhost 1&1, is one of those hoping to muscle in on the market and has just launched a UK-based arm. We spoke to Eva Heil, Managing Director of GMX, to ask her about her hopes for the service.
"It's certainly the case that GMX.co.uk is entering a highly developed market," she said. "However, we think that by virtue of its functionality, GMX.co.uk is a match for the major players."
And where does Heil feel the opportunity for GMX is? "Our research suggests that Britons are taking their personal email more seriously these days and are wanting an effective free email service that allows them to manage their various accounts easily without the gimmicks and distractions often involved with other free email services."
Of course, search is a big reason why so many people use Gmail. We asked Heil what plans GMX have in the area. "Searching in emails is definitely a standard functionality," she said. "As GMX offers the 'full package', search is certainly included. Currently we have some interesting additions to a basic search box in our pipeline, which we plan to release beginning of 2009."
But is it the case that Webmail providers will have to provide larger and larger amounts of storage to succeed? "Storage space is a popular criteria when choosing a service, so we will remain competitive in that respect."
"For a great many of users, however, 5GB is enough storage space – the organization of their email is where they become stressed. GMX is an excellent email client for email management and we think many Brits will prefer it."
We asked Heil how else she felt GMX could compete with GMail and Google's huge resources? "The current feature-set including file-storage is only the starting point. A key strength of GMX is its unique approach to developing products and its ability to launch new features in almost weekly release cycles."
"GMX is genuinely 'community-driven' – it's enhanced continually with our users' feedback. Over 500 user requests have been incorporated into today's GMX since January," added Heil. Also, our R&D uses innovative development technologies that are cost effective. For example, we use AJAX web 2.0 technology and a powerful new framework called Qooxdoo, which we are actively developing together with numerous voluntary developers all over the world.
"Over 10 years, we've gained over 11 million users throughout Europe, so GMX is high quality and reliable. Aspects like our very efficient SPAM protection will come as a pleasant surprise to new users.
Finally, we asked Heil where the webmail market will develop in five years time. "Email communication will still be one of the key applications, if not the most important, for Internet usage in general," she said. "However, free email services will also see a transformation over the coming years. The next generation email clients will have even greater personalization and collaboration features built-in to make email as effective and fun as possible."
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Dan (Twitter, Google+) is TechRadar's Former Deputy Editor and is now in charge at our sister site T3.com. Covering all things computing, internet and mobile he's a seasoned regular at major tech shows such as CES, IFA and Mobile World Congress. Dan has also been a tech expert for many outlets including BBC Radio 4, 5Live and the World Service, The Sun and ITV News.