Inbox Eases Access to Email APIs

Inbox today announced the launch of open source APIs for accessing email. The company is building on its early successes and now claims to support every email service, from legacy Exchange systems to custom IMAP servers. The company believes its APIs will help developers get started with their own email apps.

Inbox was founded by MIT alum and Dropbox engineer Michael Grinich and Ksplice Linux kernel coder Christine Spang. The company launched with support for just the Gmail API, but now boasts compatibility with AOL, Apple, Exchange, Outlook, Yahoo and many others. According to Inbox, it uses standard interfaces developers have come to expect from modern APIs. Inbox has taken care of the bugs and edge cases with character encodings, MIME structures, misformatted socket protocols and more. Inbox further claims that developer apps relying on its APIs will "just work" even as more providers are added.

The company recently added calendar APIs, which help email service developers offer a more complete package to potential customers. (The ActiveSync API includes support for contacts as well.) The Inbox mail sync engine is open source, so developers can run it on their development boxes, on cloud infrastructure or behind the firewall.

The company also introduced two new email "scaffolds." It is releasing two prototype email clients powered by the Inbox API. The code is open source and designed from the ground up to be extended with new features and utilities. Inbox explained that it is starting with HTML5 and iOS because its team is most familiar with them. Inbox is open to launching Android, too.

Inbox claims the scaffolds help its APIs do even more. Within iOS, for example, Inbox has a "sophisticated mechanism to seamlessly merge new API requests with cached data." The company says the HTML5 version is "a modern standalone single-page app, running entirely client-side via AngularJS and the Inbox.js library."

The Inbox developer program costs $99 per year, and developers can sync up to 10 accounts. Inbox handles all the syncing and storing email data, so developers don't have to worry about it. The hosted service costs $5 per month per account, and developers are free to stop or start at any time.

The company says its service isn't free for a reason. "As a user, it’s become painfully clear in the past few years that if you’re not paying for something, you’re the product. In practice, this has resulted in 'free' platforms that eventually were forced to show ads, sell user data or worse — unexpectedly shut down after an acquisition. So we’re trying something different. The Inbox API isn’t free. You pay us, and we run the service. That’s it." Inbox understands that the cost, low as it is, may still prohibit some developers from participating.

If you're a developer interested in Inbox's new APIs, you can snag more information here.

Eric Zeman I am a journalist who covers the mobile telecommunications industry. I freelance for ProgrammableWeb and other online properties.

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