The modernization of (e-)mail

Israeli start-up WiseStamp has built an application that lets you add a signature to your online e-mail.

Pity the poor e-mail; in the past two decades, asthe Internet has honed itself into the new repository of human wisdom(with, McDonald's style, "billions and billions of Web sites served"),as well as the premier communications channel for a new generation(Facebook, Twitter and all the rest), e-mail is still - just e-mail!

Of course, that's not to say there haven't beenany changes; nowadays you can load up your messages with doodads,gewgaws and chupchiks, like little smiley faces, laughing yuksters andbeating hearts (for the romantically inclined). There are applicationsthat let you choose stationery for your message. And, of course,there's the e-mail storage revolution engineered by Google, whose Gmailservice gives you gigs and gigs of storage space, allowing you tosearch your message history in an instant, and obviating the need toever click on the delete button.

But those are just appurtenances - extras that just gussy upwhat is essentially a last-century technology. Which is probably whythe communications connoisseurs have moved on to other communicationmethods, which can boast the cool apps that let you digitally connectthe pieces of your life - like Twitter does, by streaming yourconsciousness to the whole world in 140 characters (are any more reallynecessary?), complete with links to the Web pages you think thehundreds or thousands of your followers ought to read. That's a lotbetter than e-mail, which shoots off a single message to a singleperson - and nothing else.

But don't count e-mail out just yet; the folks at Israelistart-up WiseStamp have found a way to propel e-mail into the moderncommunication world - by building an application that lets you add asignature to your online e-mail!

Of course, signatures have been a staple of e-mailmessages for a long time. But WiseStamp's signatures are different,says Tzvika (Josh) Avnery, CEO and CMO of WiseStamp. "Our applicationbrings the web into the inbox," he says. "You can share streaminginformation directly with people you communicate with, therebypromoting your ideas, your blogs or your online presence."

That's because the signatures you create with WiseStamp allowyou to stream your blog posts, Twitter or Facebook messages, music,video or just about any other online activity you're involved with,directly in your Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail and other Web-mailaccounts. For the first time, Avnery says, "you can use e-mail todirect the people you communicate with to the elements of your onlinepresence, thus promoting your blog, Web page, etc."

WiseStamp is free and easy to install; just surfto and install it as a Firefox or Thunderbirdadd-on (other browsers, including Chrome, will be supported in the nearfuture, and the company is working on a version for e-mail clients,like Outlook Express). Once installed, you'll be able to open theWiseStamp preferences in the Firefox add-on menu selection; here youcan add your basic information, like contact numbers, Web site links,etc.

But the interesting part of WiseStamp is those three tabs inthe middle - Social, IM and RSS - where you can feed yoursocial-network messages (Twitter, Facebook), instant-messaging posts(AIM, ICQ) or free-form RSS (like Feedburner blog feed titles andlinks) as part of your signature.


With nearly 50 services supported, anyone who uses the Webnowadays has the opportunity to expand their online presence through anuntil-now inert channel, Avnery says, adding: "We get many messagesfrom users who tell us that WiseStamp has enhanced their communicationsabilities significantly by introducing a whole new audience to theirblog, their eBay product page or cause."

For example, Avnery says, Orly Yitzhaki, WiseStamp's productVP, recently posted links to a "Free Gilad Schalit" page in hersignature, and many users responded, saying they, too, were inspired toinclude similar links in their signatures. (The other partners who runWiseStamp along with Avenery and Yitzhaki are Sasha Gimelstein, VP oftechnology; and Tom Piamenta, VP of business development).

And not only do you get an html signature with streamingcapabilities when you install WiseStamp, Avnery says, you get two! "Weprovide users with the ability to author a business and personalsignature, since what works for personal messages may not work forbusiness-oriented messages, and vice versa," he says.

And while two identities would seem like more than enough, thecompany is preparing to expand that feature, as well as simplify thewhole system.

"I want this to be as easy for my mother as it is for aseasoned blogger," Avnery says. "In the future, we plan to offer agallery with streams of data - news articles, blog posts, etc. - basedon user interests, which users will be able to add to their messageswith a couple of clicks."

WiseStamp is planning these, and other changes, not justbecause they like developing new stuff, but because the users areinterested in them.

"We are moving in on 400,000 users now, thanks to the fact thatwe got recommended as a Firefox add-on," Avnery says, as the company,which was self-funded until now, is actively seeking to add investors."We appreciate our users and we realize they are the reason we're hereat all. So, we make it our business to pay attention to their needs."

Which could be one reason why WiseStamp just recently won a"Webby," the Mashable Open Web Award, where it was voted Best SocialMedia Gadget of 2009, winning over several other venerable applicationsand services.

But they won not for lack of trying to lose, Avnery says. "We,of course, used our product to promote ourselves in e-mail, urgingpeople we sent messages to to vote for us for the Webby Award," hesays. "But to be fair, we also told our competitors in the contest thatwe would help them set up a signature urging people to vote for them.For some reason, they didn't take us up on our offer, which, I guess,worked out for us!"