Frequently Asked Questions about Shortmail

What is Shortmail?
Shortmail is an entirely new email service that restricts email messages to 500 characters, which encourages conciseness. It also enables radically new features like Public Conversations, and better integration with social channels. We see it as a kind of liquid, social, public email, and we’re just getting started.

What can I do with my Shortmail address?
First, it’s the ultimate inbox. Every message is less than 500 characters, and there are no attachments. Your Shortmail address makes a great public-facing email address. We are hearing from users who are putting their Shortmail address onto business cards they hand out at conferences, adding it to their blog, and including it in their Twitter bio. It’s also awesome for teams, and helps you stay concise when communicating with others.

Who can I email with my Shortmail address?
You can send shortmail to any email user. It is designed to work 100% normally, with the only restriction being message length. Outbound messages contain a user-customizable signature, letting recipients know they should reply in 500 characters or less.

Can I only email other Twitter users?
No, you can email anyone with an email account. You can also send Shortmails to Twitter users without Shortmail accounts, but they will need to claim their account to read the message. You have the option to send them a reminder when you send a message to anyone who hasn’t claimed their account yet.

Can I choose my own username?
Yes! Visit Shortmail.com, and click “Claim your Shortmail address.” You can sign in with Facebook, Google or fill in the custom fields. You can register just about any username@shortmail.me you like.

What’s the difference between an @shortmail.com address and an @shortmail.me address?
Our @shortmail.com addresses are reserved for Twitter users, and are always associated with your Twitter handle (e.g. twitterhandle@shortmail.com). Our @shortmail.me addresses are available to anyone, and allow you to choose your own username (e.g. custom@shortmail.me).

Can I use Shortmail with my mobile device or tablet?
Yes! You can use IMAP and SMTP to receive and send messages using iPhone, iPad, Android, and other mobile devices that support IMAP. Follow the instructions for adding an IMAP account for your device. Go to Settings (gear icon), Advanced for settings information.

Is there a Shortmail iPhone app?
Yes! Specially designed for version 5.0 of iOS, the free app brings to the iPhone the bold simplicity and email-efficiency that has earned Shortmail its reputation as the Twitter of email. The app also comes with several striking new features, including seamless Twitter integration, beautiful artwork and push notifications! Install Shortmail on your iPhone.

Is there an Android app?
Not yet, but it’s something we’re considering. With so many mobile devices already supporting IMAP, we think most people can get good functionality from that in the meantime.

Can I integrate Shortmail into my desktop email?
Yes, you can send and receive Shortmail inside your favorite desktop mail client (like Apple Mail, or Outlook) using IMAP and SMTP. Use the settings under Settings (gear icon), Advanced.

Can I use Shortmail with Gmail?
Yes, you can integrate Shortmail with Gmail using the POP3 protocol. Add Shortmail as an external account in Gmail. Go to Settings (gear icon), Advanced to see our POP3 settings. Note, the confirmation message that Gmail generates will be quarantined due to length. You can find it at Settings (gear icon), Quarantine. (Incidentally, we’ve found that most people that try this prefer to keep their Shortmail separate, and come to prefer the Shortmail experience over Gmail.)

What happens if someone sends me an email that’s too long?
Shortmail will respond to them with a message containing a link that will allow the sender to edit the message down to 500 characters. If you think you may not have received a message because of its length, you can look for it in Settings (gear icon), Quarantine. Messages that are properly edited by the sender will be removed from Quarantine and delivered to your Shortmail inbox.

Do I have to worry about missing long mail from people I care about?
No. Check the box to “Forward quarantines from contacts” under Settings (gear icon), Account, and long emails from your contacts will be forwarded to your alternate email address.

What happens if I change my Twitter username?
If you change your Twitter handle, your Shortmail address will automatically update to reflect the change the next time you sign in at Shortmail.com.

What is a Shortmail “public” or “open” conversation?
Both “public” and “open” shortmail conversations are user-published email threads that anyone can view on the Web. Yet there is a significant difference between public and open conversations. While only authors and recipients can add replies to public conversations, anyone can add replies to open conversations (provided they’ve claimed their Shortmail account).

You can see a “public feed” of Shortmail public and open conversations here.

What makes Shortmail social?
We have several features which are designed to make email more about sharing and more social. Right now, our biggest social features are Public Conversations and Open Conversations which let you create public email threads between multiple parties. We have many more social features planned!

Why limit length? The problem is the number of messages I receive, not that they are too long.
We thought about this a great deal. We reached the conclusion that while length may not be the primary problem with email, the positive benefits and new capabilities associated with limiting length to 500 characters would be immense. Think about Shortmail’s length limitation in this way: What becomes possible when messages are more concise? Twitter’s length-limited messaging has transformed public discourse. We believe we can transform interpersonal communications, which has seen little innovation in 40 years.

Do you have an API?
Yes! Although we haven’t officially released our API yet, we’re looking for a small number of folks to beta test it with us. Interested? Please contact us at shortmail@shortmail.com and we’ll share our API with you!

Why 500 characters?
We came up with the number after working with one of our other products, Replyz. We found that it is long enough to allow people to express a complex idea, but not so long as things get wordy. We think it will emerge as a standard length for “short” email.

Why don’t you allow attachments?
Overall we think there are better solutions than MIME-over-SMTP for sharing files at this point, and we think it’s worth deprecating. Dropbox is one solution, but Google Docs (and other online document creation services) are even better. Attachments mostly just get in the way of other messaging innovations, and we’ll be looking for ways to better serve people by enabling other technologies.

How will external mail clients know that Shortmail has a 500 character limit?
We have proposed simple, new, standards compliant e-mail headers called X-Character-Limit and X-Reply-Character-Limit that mail programs can use to enforce character limits and display character counters. You can find out more about this proposal here.

What is Shortmail’s mission?
To make the world better and improve personal relationships by making communication easy, intuitive and playful.

What are your future plans for Shortmail?
We have an aggressive roadmap planned which we think will lead to the reinvention of email. We plan to add support for multiple devices and platforms, and to become a core part of the Internet’s messaging architecture. And we’re going to have a lot of fun on the way. Will you join us?

I have a suggestion on how to make Shortmail more awesome. Who can I tell? Or where can I get help with a problem?
Please visit our GetSatisfaction forum. We want to hear from you!

I love the idea of Shortmail. Who’s behind it? Can it catch on?
Shortmail is created by a team of veteran entrepreneurs and developers. We are 410 Labs and we are backed by a group of awesome Internet-savvy investors. We’re in it to win it, and with your help, we’ll change the face of communication.


Have a question we’ve not covered here? Please send us a Shortmail at shortmail@shortmail.com and we’ll consider your question for inclusion.