Edison's OnMail is a privacy-centric email service designed to rival Gmail

The company best known for its eponymous email client wants to fix the problems with email as we know it.

Edison is expanding beyond its namesake email client, Edison Mail, and wants to help fix email, which it says is broken. The company is planning to launch a new email service called OnMail that will compete with Gmail, Outlook, and the rest, by being the first privacy-centric, "permission-based" email service.

What does that even mean? — Edison explains that OnMail will give users full control of who enters their inbox by filtering emails from new contacts into a special folder. From there you'll be able to review each "request" for your attention and choose to either accept or block the contact from reaching your primary inbox. The idea is that instead of unsubscribing or blocking a contact after they've cluttered up your primary inbox, you can periodically look through the folder of unknown contacts and decide who can reach you.

That's the big innovation? — We're not sure exactly how this is different from the block button that's already available in Gmail. Even with OnMail's permissions-first feature you still need to read the contents of inbound emails before you can decide whether to accept or block them. And Gmail's Priority Inbox is pretty dang good at relegating spam to separate sections as is.

However, Edison says OnMail will also have a search feature that can accept more natural language queries than the likes of Gmail's search bar, such as, "Attachments sent by Susan last week." If it can nail search it could be a seriously attractive alternative.


But we have privacy concerns, ironically — We recently learned that Edison scans all the emails its users receive in Edison Mail and sells aggregated data back to major clients including JPMorgan and Rakuten, who then use it to advise clients on where to invest. Gmail used to do this type of email scanning in order to target the advertisements you see in its web client, but Google ended the practice in 2017 following a wave of scrutiny. It's kind of ironic then that the notoriously data-hungry Google is prying into your inbox less than Edison Mail, which the company says on its site, "doesn't invade your privacy with ads." True, but sort of misleading. You know the story: if you're not being charged for the product...

At least Edison says that sharing aggregated data will be opt-in within OnMail. So there's that. Still, Gmail and Outlook are pretty tried-and-tested services operated by behemoth tech companies. Which makes it difficult to convince us we should move to something the longevity of which is yet to be proven.

The cost of switching is high — Gmail, in particular, is so popular at this point and works so well that another service has really got to offer something insanely compelling for us to consider switching over. The cost of doing so is too high — we have to change our login details everywhere, adjust to a new service, and for what? It doesn't feel like what Edison wants to offer here is good enough. But we're hoping to be proven wrong. We're always down for more competition, especially in a space like email that could benefit from it hugely.