Searching Gmail for attachments is basically awful. Because everything in Gmail is so text-based, searches yield results that are also text-based. But what if there was a Google Image-like search option for attachments? And what if it was one that had a social element to better filter results? That's essentially what Attachments.me is building.
Currently, the service works with your Gmail credentials. You login and it begins indexing all of your email, looking for all of the attachments you've ever received. Once it does that, it breaks them up by file type: music, code, archive, movie, image, and document. And the main navigation page is populated with thumbnails of each of these attachments sorted by either the date they came in or alphabetically. But the real key to the service is search.
Currently, Attachments.me allows you to search by file type, email address, or tag. And any of these searches can be saved with one-click in case it's a search you do often. “Search is something we're really trying to nail,” CTO Ben Coe tells us. And he says that they actually already go deeper than they indicate on the site. For example, they index both sending and receiver email addresses, the content of PDFs and text documents, and content from certain external sites like Flickr and YouTube.
Speaking of Flickr and YouTube, those are just the first two external services they're highlighting. “We've built a very extensible approach and plan to branch out into crawling many external sites, along with many other types of structured data within email accounts. I think our coolest tech is built around this,” Coe says.
Okay, but what about Google? What's to stop them from doing this - and why haven't they already? “I think we're approaching the problem from a different direction. Gmail is very good at what it does. Our approach puts more of a visual and social spin on the way you think about your history of email correspondence,” Coe says. “We plan on adding many services other than Gmail. I think every startup worries about competition, to a certain degree, but we've got plenty of other things to keep us up at night,” he continues.
Beyond search, the social element to this is the most interesting thing. “Your email is innately social; we want to help bring this out. We've added features that make it easy to share old attachments with your friends. We'd like to do a lot more: commenting, for instance,” Coe notes.
One potential issue is power email users. When they indexed my inbox, I was told by Attachments.me advisor Joe Stump that I had by far the most email they had ever seen. And because such a large part are PR pitches that include email signatures with images, that created a problem for my relevant results. But Attachments.me has been working on that too. “This is definitely a problem that's on our minds,” Coe says. “We automatically hide images under a certain size–which helps deal with spam attachments, such as signatures. We group together attachments received repeatedly, and also avoid indexing anything placed in the spam folder,” he continues.
I assumed that most attachments were images, but that's not the case. According to the data Attachments.me has so far, documents are the largest category, making up some 44 percent of all attachments. Images are second at 36 percent. Music is a solid 5 percent.
Currently, Attachments.me is just Coe and co-founder Jesse Miller (Stump helped them start the project and is now an advisor). And now that they're out there in the wild, the next step is funding.
For users with a manageable amount of email mostly coming from people they actually know, Attachments.me should be a very useful service. And it's clearly a juicy Google acquisition target going forward.