The Story of Slimbox

For the past three years we've been focused on one goal: to make email better. This is our (short) story.

The Story of Slimbox

We aren't the first to try to solve this problem

A few years ago, Gmail gave us categories (primary, promotions, updates, social, and forums). While we love Gmail, we found ourselves desperately turning off these tabs because of a few issues. Gmail was categorizing emails based on Machine Learning, and apparently the machines didn't learn fast enough that changes to a flight or other critical emails should never skip the inbox.

The bottom line was that as users, we didn't know how Gmail was making their categorizations, so if we weren't diligent in checking each tab, we might miss something.

The other issue that emerged from the categories was that there were too many of them. Instead of simply checking one inbox, we now found ourselves checking four or five mini-inboxes. Because of that extra effort, we were even more likely to miss something. Technology can make people lazy, and we were no different. Oh, and if you think Slack somehow solves this, umm, it gets even worse...

Tweet describing how Slack multiplies your inbox problem
Slack: The "Email Killer"

So, Gmail was moving email out of our inboxes in a way that we didn't ask it to. And it was forcing us to check multiple inboxes to make sure we didn't miss anything. Gmail tabs also caused confusion because they only worked on your phone with the Gmail app. If you used the iPhone Mail app like nearly half of all email users, you were left with a cluttered inbox, and you didn't really understand why – that can be an incredibly frustrating experience.

Predictive search results for Gmail Categories
Gmail's categories caused a lot of confusion for users

Unsubscribing isn't the answer

So, if automatic categorization and lack of visibility is the problem, would manual categorization and high visibility be the solution? That was's approach when they tried to solve this problem (before Google's Categories). It's been well-documented that has problems with transparency. It's been less well-documented that they settled with the FTC last year to make these problems go away.

But even before started selling your data to Uber, we already felt like their solution was simply too complicated. Every decision was difficult to make – did I want to unsubscribe? What if I need something later? How come I have to keep manually updating this? While was certainly a pioneer in the daily digest of emails, actually managing to sign up for their service was both confusing and difficult – like many great email solutions, it simply wasn't worth the effort.

Perhaps most striking was that unsubscribing felt like an antiquated solution to a more modern problem. Email is the place where you manage communications with all the products and services in your life – you can't simply unsubscribe yourself out of the problem. Most of the overload in our inboxes is not from things that we don't want ever, it's from things that we don't want right now.

Why is Slimbox the solution?

We made a product that is simple. Then, we made that product simpler. This means that Slimbox is easy to understand and easy to use for everyone.

  • Instead of tons of categories, there's just two: Inbox and #Slimbox.
  • Instead of missing emails, you receive a daily summary.
  • Instead of unsubscribing, clutter is simply moved out of your inbox.

Simple. And it takes only seconds to activate.

Google wasn't the first search engine. Facebook wasn't the first social network. And the iPhone wasn't the first smartphone.

Slimbox isn't the first attempt to fix email. But it might be the last.

Slimdog dreaming of a better way to fix email