Staff Editorial: College should make e-mail switch

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April 8, 2008

3:38 AM

Sending an e-mail should be painless. Sending an e-mail should take just a few moments. Sending an e-mail should not require a Magic Eight Ball. Would our passwords work this time? “Ask again later,” it would say. Would our message for the listserv go through? “Cannot predict now,” the ball would reply. Would another African prince offer us countless millions in exchange for our bank account information? The Eight Ball would know all too well: “It is decidedly certain.” Spooky.

With their college accounts creating so many hassles, it’s no wonder students are turning to third-party providers for their e-mailing needs. The College now has the same opportunity — we suggest they take advantage of it. Switching to Google’s Gmail or Microsoft’s Windows Live Hotmail would not only eliminate the current stability problems, but also provide a better, more functional platform.

As it currently stands, the College’s e-mail system is woefully inadequate — a fact made clear in the last week as a software update knocked out communications for an entire day and backed up thousands of e-mails for several more. Though this is annoying, the single event isn’t the only reason to demand a change. The current product also suffers from limited storage space, insufficient organizational functions and an interface that seems designed to frustrate.

Both Microsoft and Google offer better options. Each would increase students’ total storage to five gigabytes, 100 times more space than is available currently. A switch would allow students to make better use of that space as well. The third-party systems provide organizational tools the current program lacks, from Microsoft’s drag-and-drop message sorting to Google’s intuitive tagging. An intelligent search function, standard in either package, would also be an improvement over what we now use.

Students may worry that such a move would strip them of their wm.edu addresses and force them to apply for new usernames, but the program would allow students to keep their current addresses. A change of provider would not leave friends and colleagues across the country scrambling to readjust their address books.

Other major universities have already made the jump, a decision that has involved hundreds of thousands of accounts. If the University of Arizona and its campus of 65,000 can make the transition without a hitch, the College’s meager addition shouldn’t pose much of a problem. And since ad revenue would make the new programs free of charge, all the College stands to lose is an unstable, outdated e-mail service. Should they make the switch? “All signs point to yes.”

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