Fastmail - Interview with the developer of a fantastic app

Did you have any prior development or coding experience?


At university, I obtained a Bachelor of Science with a Computer Science Major. I worked as a developer and sysadmin before moving into my current management role.

Prior to starting with Fastmail in Melbourne, I was actually living in the USA! My previous job was data management for late-phase clinical trials, and I had been sent to the New Jersey office of my employer to work with the team there using data collection software I had developed.

What was the most challenging aspect of developing mobile app?

Email is really tricky. People have a lot, often gigabytes of email comprising hundreds of thousands of individual messages, received over many years, with large attachments and complex HTML.

These emails were produced by many different versions of many different email client programs and automated senders over those years, and contain all sorts of buggy markup.

Users want to be able to search and view any of those messages very quickly. There are also security and privacy considerations around rendering random content from the internet. No wonder most email apps are so slow!

We developed a protocol to allow clients to quickly synchronize against the massive database that is an email account and efficiently access the email you need at any moment and then worked to have that published as an open standard (JMAP) that is now available for anybody to build upon. Our app uses JMAP to power the great experience that our customers enjoy.

The interviewee is Mr. Bron Gondwana - the CEO and Director of Fastmail.
Bron is a technologist with over 20 years of experience building email products who lives in Melbourne, Australia. He joined Fastmail in 2004 as a developer and sysadmin, has served on the board of Fastmail since 2013, and became CEO in 2017. Bron is a member of the open-source Cyrus email server board and co-chair of multiple working groups at the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). He is the primary author of the IMAP extension for object identifiers (RFC8474). Bron holds a degree in Computer Science from the University of Tasmania. He frequently speaks around the world about open standards, Cyrus, email privacy and security, and Fastmail products and values. Bron’s hobbies include choral singing and teaching group, fitness classes.
The interview was arranged by Mr. Roland Nichols - the Marketing Manager at Fastmail.

Name a few of your favorite apps and reason you love them.

1Password: I used to remember two passwords that I used on most “low security” websites and only have more complex passwords for things where I was protecting something of high value. Now I can have complex passwords everywhere.

Fitbit: I have the watch and scale, and it lets me track how my body is doing. Without making it an unhealthy obsession, it’s useful to have data to help inform my decisions about how I treat myself. The sleep tracking is particularly valuable.

Maps: When I lived in the USA in 2004, I would program the route to an unfamiliar place into Mapquest and print the directions. If you missed a single turn, you had to hope you could get back on the route. Real-time updating GPS directions are a massive game-changers.

How long have you been working on this app?

Fastmail first launched a web-based email service to paying customers in 2002. I personally started at Fastmail in 2004.

The fast mobile experience was launched in 2011 and has been refined many times over the years. We relaunched the app in 2018, fully rewritten in JMAP. Since that, we’ve continued to apply what we’ve learned based on feedback from our users to the JMAP standard.

What need of the user did you have in mind when developing this app?

Fast access to relevant information, along with timely and worthwhile notifications.

People are busy, so we want you to spend the least amount of time necessary in our app to achieve your goals.

We’re also increasingly disrupted during our day, so our notifications controls, facility, and powerful email rules have been designed to give our customers control over who can interrupt them.

In what way do you think your app is better than similar apps on the market? Please describe in detail what innovation you think you bring and what you are proud of in your app.

Fastmail is designed with the users’ needs as our primary motivation. Most email services are designed with somebody else as the customer, and the user there as somebody to be advertised to or have their data and behavior harvested for other purposes.

We also benefit from having our servers in the USA while many of our development staff are in Australia. The network behavior which we experience every day led us to develop a protocol that works well on high latency connections, benefiting our customers everywhere in the world.

What are your future plans and expected features of the coming new versions of this app?

Fastmail’s app is a hybrid with our web interface, so updates to our interface also appear immediately in the app. We’re continuing to innovate and find ways to help our customers, with a focus on making our existing features more discoverable to new users.

A significant focus of the next few years will be making Fastmail integrate more easily with the other apps and websites that you use and love, meeting our users where they are, helping them save time, and facilitating a private and easy-to-use digital life!

Assuming new users of your app are reading this page. What do you want to ask them to do (contact you about X, Share the app, etc.)?

Our app only works with our hosting service, so you will have also just signed up for a free trial! Congratulations on your wise choice, and welcome.

I definitely recommend importing your existing email from other services - you don’t need to delete it from there - so it’s not a commitment - but this way you’ll get to experience how well we handle large volumes of email, which is important in the future.

I’d also advise getting your own domain. Having your own domains allows you to move services easily and personalize your identity on the internet. We trust that you’ll stay because you continue to love the service, not just to keep the same email address!

Finally, create some masked emails and use them to sign up for services who you don’t trust to be careful with your email address! If you’re also using 1Password, then it can be done directly in web forms, but you can also create a masked email from within the Fastmail App. It’s a great way to preserve your privacy, and easily see who’s selling your data (and block emails to that address when they do).

One of our biggest priorities is putting you in control. So, whether you’re an on-the-go mobile user who wants to customize their swipe options, into Inbox Zero who wants powerful rules, or a hustler who wants a side gig that looks full time, we’ve got powerful features-built in... and if you don’t see what you’re looking for, just contact support!


About App:
Use the power and elegance of the Fastmail interface on the go. Your email, contacts, and calendars stay with you on mobile devices.

* Get instant alerts for new mail arriving in folders that are important to you.

* Search your entire email archive in seconds.

* Schedule meetings, respond to invitations, and look up contacts with just a few taps.

* Pin important messages to the top of your inbox for instant access.

* Easy access bar puts all your information at your fingertips.

* Get notifications from one, some or all of your folders

* Filter your notifications to just your known senders

* Calendar event alerts

* Masked Email gives you a unique address for every online service

* Our 1Password partnership makes signing up to services online with Masked Email easy and secure

Note: You must be online to access your mail.

Offering trustworthy service, outstanding technology, and a personable approach -- Fastmail is email on your side. For your mobile needs, the Fastmail app is pleasingly intuitive and fast at every touchpoint. Access your email, contacts, and calendars wherever you go.

Categories: Communication

Date: October 1, 2022

Developer: Fastmail Pty Ltd

About developer: The interviewee is Mr. Bron Gondwana - the CEO and Director of Fastmail. B ... Read more



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