ZeroConfig makes all the difference
Friday, December 25, 2009 1:35:04 AM
Today I added “Zero-configuration networking” to my list of feature requirements for my email client. This little feature that the user doesn’t ever notice makes all the difference [initially]. After fiddling with getting my three IMAP accounts working in Mozilla Thunderbird on two machines for our an hour; I really understand and appreciate the necessity of ZeroConf.
To put it simple in the context of email, ZeroConf means: intelligently attempting to figure out the correct server addresses, ports, and security settings without prompting/confusing/annoying the user.
Opera Mail is faking this behaviour by shipping with a list of popular configurations. This sort of works too. But that solution doesn’t scale nor work for everyone.
Without studying this too closely, it looks like Thunderbird does something in between ZeroConf and the Opera Mail approach. It tries a list of subdomains (pop3., imap.) and fails if the server admin have deviated just a little from what Thunderbird expects.
Thunderbird couldn’t figure out any of my three accounts (provided by Runbox, FastMail, and Subsys). Opera Mail only one of the accounts. …but Apple Mail got all of the three accounts without problem. Thus immediately giving the user what they want: their email, not endless dialogs and corrections to those dialogs.