Threadsy's gone, but I'm still searching for a universal in-box

Melding multiple e-mail and social network accounts into one interface makes a lot of sense. Why can't anyone make a business out of it?

It was a little like learning that an old friend had passed away without me knowing about it.

Threadsy
Threadsy, back when it existed. Harry McCracken/CNET

I recently tried to log in to my account at Threadsy, an extremely clever Web-based service that wove multiple Gmail accounts, Facebook, and Twitter into one interface that let you handle all your communications in one place. When I did, I got a message: "threadsy will be shutting down on November 2, 2011. We have been honored to serve you, our passionate community."

Wow. For a few months, Threadsy--which debuted at the TechCrunch 50 conference in September 2009 and opened up to the public in May 2010--had been my primary communications client. I used it to juggle my work and personal Gmail accounts, Facebook, and Twitter; getting access to all of them in one place made my online life meaningfully more efficient.

For all the things I liked about Threadsy, I also found it to be buggy and unreliable, which is why my usage dwindled. But it was still bursting with potential, and I was sad to discover that it hadn't made it. I'd hoped that its creators had ironed out the glitches, which is why I was trying to sign in after such a long break.

The Threadsy blog provided only a brief explanation of the service's demise: "As enthusiastic as our team is about Threadsy, the economics behind the application are challenging, and ultimately, we did not gain users quickly enough to justify continued investment." Indeed. In fact, people keep trying to build universal in-boxes, and they keep failing to create successful businesses.

Consider the evidence. Back in 2008, Mashable's Palin Ningthoujam looked at six "online e-mail aggregators," including Fuser, Goowy, Jubii, Orgoo, TopicR, and Zenbe. Today, Goowy, Jubii, Orgoo, and TopicR are gone. Zenbe has reinvented itself into a list manager. And Fuser is...well, it's still there. But the most recent year in its copyright statement is 2009, it brags about Friendster support (!), and I can't get the service to work.

More recently, a promising iPhone app called Twezr--a sort of Threadsy for your phone--came and went in just a few months. 

If I were a venture capitalist, that mortality rate would be alarming. But the problem that all those failed services were trying to solve is still with us. 

I still have two Gmail addresses I rely on more or less continuously. So far, Google has shown no interest in letting me use them both in one place. Oddly enough, it also appears to be more excited about mushing Gmail together with its own Google+ than in intermingling Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter. There are third-party Gmail Gadgets that let you see Facebook and Twitter from within your Gmail in-box, but they fall short of offering full-blown integration.

It's possible the problem here is that there just aren't all that many people who care enough about in-box unification to actually use one of these services. When Threadsy launched, it got some nice reviews, including one right here on CNET . Its demise, however, seems to have gone unrecorded on CNET and on other major news sites such as TechCrunch. That's why I thought it was worth mentioning even at this late date. (Yes, I feel guilty that I didn't notice myself until just now.)

If a new service comes along that tries to succeed where Threadsy failed, I'll be first in line to try it. In the meantime, if you know about any Web-based tools for integrating Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter that are still around, I'd love to hear about them. Most of the companies that have tried to do it may have given up hope, but I haven't.

 

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