Cover by Andy Oram, Greg Wilson

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The Invisible Hand Moves

By mid-2004, Neomailbox was a year old and had attracted quite a few paying customers. Cryptonite development was put on hold for a bit while I worked on developing various aspects of the Neomailbox service as well as on a few other projects I just couldn't wait to get started on.

But being out in the market was great, as it brought market forces, from competition to user feedback, to bear on the development process, and helped sharpen and clarify priorities. Customer requests and queries helped keep me intimately connected to what the users and the market wanted. Meeting the market's demands is how application code becomes beautiful in a commercial sense, after all, so interaction with the market became an integral and critical component of the development process.

Cryptonite was designed to be easy to maintain and modify, precisely because I knew that at some point it would have to start to evolve in new ways, both in response to and in anticipation of what the customer wanted. Being in the market enabled me to see that emerging demand: it was clear that IMAP was the future of remote mailbox access.

IMAP has a lot of attractive features that make it a very powerful and practical mail access protocol. One of the most important of these is the ability to access the same mailbox using multiple clients, which becomes increasingly important with the proliferation of computing devices. The typical user now has a desktop, a laptop, a PDA, and a cellphone, all capable ...

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