Jellema’s ZEROmail hits closed beta


It’s only been six weeks since Australian technology startup luminary Bart Jellema announced his ambitious next project: Fixing what he sees as the currently broken email paradigm. But the entrepreneur’s project has already hit private beta and is evolving fast.

Jellema is well-known in the Australian technology startup community. Over the past several years he’s been one of the key driving forces behind StartupCamp, a series of small events which has seen a plethora of web startups built and launched over a couple of days. The enterpreneur’s own successful startup exit came in March 2010 — when the online coupon company he co-founded sold to online media company Internet Brands.

“Email used to be fun,” he wrote upon launching his new startup this year. “Sometimes I got an email, I responded to it and all was good. Now I get 100 emails a day and spent way too much time dealing with the dreaded email … It’s time to reinvent this tool to bring it into this day and age. This is the goal of Project Inbox ZERO.”

This week on his blog, Jellema published early screenshots of the newly renamed ZEROmail interface and revealed the service had hit closed beta status, with about 40 users testing it. Initially the service works by copying all of a users’ email into the ZEROmail platform, with users being then able to manage both of their email inboxes side by side until they become confident about ZEROmail’s abilities.

“When you are happy with the way ZEROmail works you can choose to synchronise your inboxes and keep them in sync,” Jellema wrote.

Critically – and unlike most email services – ZEROmail automatically filters out many of the automated email notification messages which people receive from services like Facebook and Twitter, as well as bulk distribution newsletters and mailing list group subscriptions. These categories of email receive their own folders, which users can skim read at will.

“All newsletters can be read in one view (like Google Reader) and notifications are displayed similar to notifications in Facebook which saves you heaps of time and clicks in dealing with these,” wrote Jellema.

The ZEROmail platform is based on the Python language, using the Tornado web server software and the PostgreSQL database, with attachments being stored on Amazon’s S3 service. The user interface is not dissimilar from most web email services – for example, Google’s Gmail or Microsoft’s Live platform.

And Jellema is still looking for extra hands to help out with ZEROmail, after several individuals who joined the team early on didn’t work out. At the moment the startup is composed of just Jellema and web developer Katrin Suess, who are both now full-time on the effort.

ZEROmail is one of a number of companies over the past decade which have attempted to reform the email paradigm. Google’s own Gmail, with its unlimited online storage and a growing number of interface and functionality extensions, has done much to bring email into the new millennium. However, Microsoft’s Outlook/Exchange ecosystem has also introduced new functionality into the medium, especially inside large organisations, and smaller startups like Xobni have also driven innovation.

Despite this, email is facing strong challenges from other similar communications mediums — with the messaging functions of social networks like Twitter and Facebook, for example, seeing growing popularity amongst users.

Image credit: Bart Jellema


  1. IF I could just be able to do all micro social from one place….

    You know… read an email then click a button to tweet/status something about it and then click reply if I wanted to.

    I know it sounds like feature creep …. but really, should not an email client be able to do this by now ?

  2. Use GMail. Got a newsletter that keeps appearing? Open the email, click More Actions, click Filter Messages Like These, click Next Step, Tick “Skip The Inbox”, tick “Apply The Label:” (select an existing label or create a new one – all my newsletters go to “General News”, all my Facebook notifications go to “Facebook”), click “Also Apply To X Conversations Below”, click “Create Filter”.

    I’ve had “Inbox Zero” for the past two years since adopting the above. I can see when I have a Facebook notification but it doesn’t appear as a new message in my inbox, which is what I want. I never read my “General Newsletters” label, but sometimes there’s information in there I want, so it’ll appear in my searches.

    Curious to see if ZeroMail can offer me more than the above (other than the usual bells and whistles of importing Facebook proflie pictures – I’ve had several GMail plugins that did that, but I deleted them after a while as they cluttered the interface).

    • This is precisely the key question which ZEROmail needs to answer with me as well, Tom. The way I envisage the service is like a bit of a mashup between a normal webmail service and the sort of power offered by a platform like — which can automatically unsubscribe you from any mailing list you’re on. If Bart and co can make it so that almost any annoying email can be filtered into the right area automatically, if will avoid the manual steps you’ve outlined above.

      I already filter Facebook’s emails into a specific folder, for example. But there’s no reason this couldn’t be done automatically without me even setting it up.

Comments are closed.