Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Inbox on a Diet

Internet

A couple years ago, Brandeis University computer scientist Jordan Pollack received an e-mail with a seven-megabyte file attached. Frustrated by how long it took to download the file, Pollack created a system to automatically strip attachments from e-mail and put the files on a Web site, replacing them with a Web link. This “thinned down” his e-mail inbox, so Pollack called his creation Thinmail. He liked the idea so much that, in 1999, he launched a company to bring it to market.

Pollack says the Waltham, MA-based company’s system is “just more polite than sending huge attachments.” But it could change the way people use Palm Pilots, cell phones and other mobile devices to check e-mail. With little memory to spare, these systems normally discard attachments. But Pollack created an “e-mail bot” to allow users to manage the files, which the Thinmail system stores on its own server. An attachment can be sent to a nearby fax machine for printing, forwarded to someone else, or, for certain file types such as Microsoft Word and HTML, translated to plain text and its first 100 lines returned to the mobile user for viewing. The system currently handles over 30 standard Windows, Mac and UNIX file types; future plans include support for scanned documents and voice messaging.

Thinmail charges users via a micropayment system based on storage space used-storing a 10-megabyte file for one day, for example, costs five cents. The company signed up its first customer last September; as of January, it had over 350 users.

Get stories like this before anyone else with First Look.

Subscribe today
Already a Premium subscriber? Log in.
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Online Only.
  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.