Faster than native, introducing FastMail’s new mobile web interface

For the last few months we’ve been beta testing a new mobile user interface. We feel it’s now ready for general use and have just rolled it out to production.

To access the new interface, just go to https://www.fastmail.fm in a web browser on your phone/mobile device and log in to your FastMail account. If your phone supports it (iOS 6+, Android 4+, Windows Phone coming soon), you’ll automatically get the new interface.

This new interface is built on the same underlying technology as our current desktop interface, and thus includes all the advanced features of that interface including instant actions, conversations and fast cross-folder searching.

We’ve also worked hard to make the new interface feel perfectly natural as a finger driven mobile interface. We’ve placed tap targets near where fingers are likely to be and added swipe actions to allow quick archiving or deleting of emails. Simple transitions make it clear where you are in the interface at any time making it easy to navigate.

But most importantly, the new mobile interface is fast! We’ve gone to great lengths to reduce the number of round trip requests between your phone and our servers, making the interface load and feel fast even over the high latency connections of mobile networks. In many cases, it is faster than a dedicated email app.

We’re pushing the limits of what’s currently possible with a web based application and think the results speak for themselves. Below we’ve created a short video showing a few key features. Take a look, then try it out by logging in or signing up at https://www.fastmail.fm.

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Updated privacy policy

After the recent sale of FastMail back to the developers, we decided it was a good time to review and update our privacy policy. We hope this makes it clear that we strongly value our users privacy and will continue to do so in the future.

The new policy is available at https://www.fastmail.fm/help/overview_privacy.html and is included below.

The FastMail Team


Privacy Policy

At FastMail, we take the privacy of our users very seriously. We want to make our policies on managing your data clear and understandable, so we’ve tried to write our privacy policy in plain English. If you have any further privacy concerns we haven’t addressed, please email privacy@fastmail.fm.

Jurisdiction

FastMail is an Australian company and as such is subject to Australian law. Australia has strong privacy laws in relation to email, specified in the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979. The Electronic Frontiers Australia organisation has an excellent summary; this privacy policy tries to make it clear how it applies in practice to FastMail.

Surveillance and law enforcement

We do not participate in, or co-operate with, any kind of blanket surveillance or monitoring. (We also point out that Australia does not have any equivalent to the US National Security Letter, so we cannot be forced to do something without being allowed to disclose it.)

We also take technical measures where feasible to prevent surveillance of our users occurring without our co-operation, such as:

  • using encrypted SMTP for sending your mail when the receiving server supports it.
  • mandating encrypted access for webmail, IMAP and POP.
  • using Perfect Forward Secrecy where possible for all encrypted connections.
  • encrypting communications between our data centres.

Like any company, we can never guarantee our measures are 100% effective, as we don’t know the full capabilities of any attackers. However, these measures do act to increase the difficulty and expense of any surveillance.

As an Australian company, we are required to disclose information about specific individual accounts to properly authorised Australian law enforcement with the appropriate supporting documentation. This means we need to see a warrant signed by an Australian judge before we will hand over any email data. Such requests must always be for specific accounts; we do not participate in or co-operate with "fishing expeditions". As a guideline, in the last year we disclosed information on fewer than 50 accounts.

We do not directly disclose any information about our users to law enforcement from outside Australia, and indeed our understanding of Australian law is that it would be illegal for us to do so.

Overseas law enforcement may apply via an appropriate mutual assistance treaty to obtain information on our users. If the request is approved, then Australian documentation will be issued for disclosure of this information.

This distinction may seem academic, but in our experience the extra administrative overhead, and the additional layers of judicial oversight mean that we receive very few valid requests that originate from overseas and they must always be targeted at specific accounts.

We do not condone illegal activity. We deal with all law enforcement requests personally and we are satisfied that all we have seen are justified.

Data mining and profiling

We do not sell or give information about our users to any third parties. Payments are securely handled via Pin, Global Collect or PayPal; your credit card details are never transmitted to our servers. Pin and/or Global Collect store your credit card details and address for the purpose of future payments with FastMail, unless you have requested your payment details not to be stored. Pin’s privacy policy is available at https://pin.net.au/privacy. Global Collect’s privacy policy is available at http://www.globalcollect.com/Privacy-statement/. PayPal’s privacy policy varies depending on your country of residence; you can select your country to find the relevant privacy policy at https://www.paypal.com/webapps/mpp/ua/legalhub-full.

Incoming messages are scanned for the purpose of spam detection unless you disable spam protection for your account. We may also scan some outgoing messages with the same software to prevent people using our service to send spam. Emails you report as spam are automatically analysed to help train our spam filter. Also, if enabled, emails reported as spam are forwarded on to some external email reporting services. These services aim to help monitor and reduce overall spam on the Internet. Currently the services we report to are Return Path and LashBack. These may change in the future. If you don’t want this, you can disable the reporting in the FastMail advanced settings.

To make message searching fast, we build an index of your messages (this is a table, just like you would find at the back of a reference book, in which you can look up a word to quickly find the emails in which it appears).

No information from any of these activities is used for any other purpose, or to compile any kind of profile on our users.

Data retention

We retain backups of deleted messages for at least a week. This is for the purpose of restoring messages in case of accidental deletion. After this point, deleted messages will be purged from all our backups, although the time this takes to happen may vary due to automated load balancing.

We normally keep logs of email and server activity for up to 6 months. This is for the purposes of diagnosing and fixing problems, which are often reported to us weeks or months after they occur. Message subjects may be contained in these logs, but not message bodies. Aggregate or anonymous data, which cannot be linked to individual user accounts, may be kept for longer periods, for the purpose of improving the FastMail service.

Backups and logs may be kept longer than these limits in special circumstances. For example, if a problem is taking a long time to resolve, logs relevant to that investigation may be retained. Or if a server that contains backups or logs is temporarily offline because of a fault, then those backups or logs may not be deleted until the server is brought back up.

These situations are unusual, however, and when they do occur, they are temporary.

Account deletion

Should you close your account, all data will be permanently deleted 7 days after closing. It may take a further 2 weeks to purge from all our backups.

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Exciting news: FastMail staff purchase the business from Opera

In 2010, FastMail was bought by Opera Software. The developers and staff of FastMail have now bought back the company. This means that FastMail is once again an independent company, dedicated to building the best possible email experience for our users. We have big plans for the future, and we will continue to roll out new features and enhancements over the coming months.

There are no configuration changes or any other changes you need to make. All existing accounts will continue to run as they do now with the same billing cycle, pricing, features, reliability, security, etc.

In case you have any questions, we’ve tried to address the main issues below.

  • Why has Opera sold you? Are you in trouble?

    Not at all. Opera has undergone an internal change of strategic direction and an email service no longer fits within their long term vision. With Opera’s investment in development and infrastructure over the last 3 years, FastMail has continued to increase its rate of growth and profitability. We came to the mutual conclusion that FastMail’s future would be better served as a separate company.

  • How will this affect future development work?

    FastMail is keeping all existing FastMail related staff. We believe we have all the resources and talent needed to keep developing and growing FastMail now and going forward into the future.

  • What sort of things do you have planned?

    A hugely improved mobile interface, CardDAV support to allow synchronisation of contacts between devices, a calendaring service including CalDAV support for synchronisation of events between devices, improved backend and searching performance. All these things are currently in active development and slated for release within the next year.

  • This all sounds great. Is there any way I can help?

    The best way to help us is continue to use FastMail. It’s the support we get from our users that allows us to keep running and developing the service.

    Tell your friends that there’s a real alternative to the big corporations. One that doesn’t show ads, respects your privacy, and is fully committed to keeping the service going forward.

    Tweet about us. Post about us on your blog. Make you and your boss happy by switching your work email to FastMail :)

  • How does this affect the privacy of my email and other data?

    We have always taken our users’ privacy very seriously and this will not change. We’re working on publishing an updated privacy policy next week that will explain in clear wording exactly how your data is treated. We’ll post to the blog with more information soon.

Thanks for using FastMail. We’ve put a lot of thought and effort into building the fastest, easiest and most powerful way to access your email. We look forward to providing you with the best service we can.
 
The FastMail Team

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Fastmail uses perfect forward secrecy with https/TLS connections

There’s been a number of articles recently about perfect forward secrecy (PFS). The main aim of PFS is to ensure that even if the private SSL/TLS key for www.fastmail.fm was ever compromised, it would still be impossible to decrypt any existing captured traffic between users and our server. If you’re looking for more information, the linked articles above are worth reading to get a better overview. For PFS to work, both the server (us) and the client (your web browser) must support it.

Fastmail has supported PFS via ECDHE for some time now (since July 2012). Unfortunately a few browsers don’t support ECDHE.

Today we’ve updated our ciphers to the best practice recommended by SSL Labs. Using the SSL Labs site tester on www.fastmail.fm shows that we now support PFS on all major browsers except for IE 8 on Windows XP, which has no support for PFS and so can never support it.

We’re pretty sure that this change won’t have any compatibility issues with old clients (which should fall back to older ciphers), but we’ll keep an eye out in case there’s any reported problems.

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Custom login screens for family/business accounts

We’ve released a new feature that allows family and business accounts to easily customise the login screen for their users. Just login to your family/business and go to Manage –> Customise Login.

To make customisation quick and easy, you only need to specify 3 things:

  1. An overall theme for the page (4 to choose from)
  2. Some text to appear on the login screen (defaults to “Your Business/Family Name webmail login”)
  3. A logo you want to appear on the page. You can upload any JPG/PNG you have, it will automatically be resized to fit the login screen appropriately

By default, the custom login screen will then appear at http://mail.yourdomain.com.

If you host DNS for your domain with us, this will just work automatically. If you use an external DNS provider, you’ll need to create a CNAME record for mail.yourdomain.com that points to www.fastmail.fm. (Correction: This was previously mail.messagingengine.com, which was incorrect)

An example page is viewable at http://mail.digitalintegrity.com

For resellers, any sub-business will automatically get your business customised login screen by default, though you can also explicitly customise the login screen for each sub-business if you want.

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Reading pane available

Today we rolled out support for a longstanding feature request we’ve had here at FastMail: a reading pane in our web interface. Displaying the mailbox listing next to the selected conversation means you can go through your email without switching between two different screens, and you can see at a glance what other messages are in your mailbox whilst reading an email. This works particularly well in today’s age of widescreen computers and tablets, making good use of all that horizontal screen space.

You’ll find the option to choose a layout that shows the reading pane in the Settings, as part of the “Theme” group of settings. You’ll also find here an option to hide the sidebar, which is useful on smaller devices where you want to use the space for the reading pane instead. Note, when logging in on an iPad we automatically enable the reading pane and hide the sidebar to make optimal use of the space available.

The reading pane is not available in the classic interface.

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Dropbox integration now available

“Cloud” storage is a big deal these days, and there’s all sorts of great ways to make your files available everywhere. FastMail has had an online file storage facility for years, but there’s other popular services out there too. So recently we started thinking about how we could let you use other file services from inside FastMail.

Dropbox is one of the most popular of these services, and we think they do a great job of making it easy to access your files everywhere, no matter what kind of device you use. That philosophy fits well with what we’re trying to do with FastMail, so it seemed like a natural fit to make the two services work together.

So today we’ve released our Dropbox integration. Now when you attempt to attach a file, you’ll be offered a new option: “Attach From Dropbox”. The first time you use this you’ll be asked to sign in to Dropbox and authorise FastMail, but after that you’ll be able to browse and attach files from Dropbox just as easily as you can from your FastMail file storage. Similarly, you can save attachments from your messages directly to Dropbox.

We think this is pretty great. Now you can do things like save a document to the Dropbox folder on your computer at home, then attach it to an email you write from a friend’s computer. you could save some photos you received in a message to your Dropbox, and then use the Dropbox app on your phone to access and share them, and have them ready for you when you get home without having to do anything else.

Note that at no time does this give Dropbox access to your mail or any data stored by FastMail. All access to your Dropbox is done using a random authentication token that can not be linked back to your FastMail account.

We’re pretty excited about this feature, and hope you like it!

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Fast, full message searching across all folders

We’ve just rolled out a significant improvement to our search infrastructure.

Until now, searching for email in FastMail has been slow and idiosyncratic. Searching for words entered into the search box would only search the To/Cc/From/Subject headers of messages in the current folder. It wouldn’t search the message body content or across multiple folders. While there were options that made both of these possible, they were incredibly slow, making finding the messages you wanted frustrating.

Now though, when you enter words in the search box, we search the To/Cc/From/Subject headers as well as the entire message body content, and we do it across all messages in all folders. Additionally, when searching for a word, we’ll show a snippet of the message content with the search term(s) highlighted in the preview area. We’ll also search for multiple different forms of the word e.g. searching for “condition” will find condition, conditions, conditional, conditionally, etc.

Most importantly, by making sure all this data is indexed, the searches are very fast, even with a million messages across dozens of folders. In most cases, it should only take a few seconds to search all your email and we have plans in progress that should speed this up even more over the coming months.

We’ve also built an easy to access advanced search builder. When you click in the search box, an auto-complete popup will appear as you type. The final item in the pop-up is an “Advanced search” option. Clicking on this will show an overlay that lets you construct an advanced search without having to leave the screen.

If you find yourself repeating the same search frequently, you can save it by clicking the “Save” button next to the search in the sidebar. The search will appear with your list of folders. Keyboard power users can quickly select the search using the “g” shortcut folder finder, just like a normal folder.

Note: The new search currently only works with the new (AJAX) interface. If you’re using the “classic” interface or the mobile interface, you’ll get the old search system for now. We hope to fix this in the future. Also if you want the old search behaviour (including sub-string matching), use the substr:(sometext) operator as described on the help page.

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New domains added

We’ve recently added some new domains to Fastmail. You can use these domains to signup new accounts, or as alias email addresses in existing accounts (if your account level supports aliases). The domains are:

  • fastmail.im
  • fastmail.mx
  • fastmail.se
  • fastmail.tw
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Undo and other new features

Yesterday, we rolled out a number of new features and improvements to our
new webmail interface. Here’s a quick run down of what’s new:

  • Undo. Accidentally moved a message, deleted a
    contact, marked something unread etc? No problem. Your last action can
    now be undone; just click the “Undo” link in the confirmation message.
    Or, if you’re a keyboard user, hit ‘z’. Note, you can’t undo sending a
    message.
  • The pinned status of a message is now shown at the top on the
    conversation read screen, so you can see it even if the message is
    collapsed.
  • Security options and logs are now grouped together in their own
    section under “Account”, to make it easier to manage the security of
    your account. This includes changing your password, seeing (and remotely
    logging out) any existing sessions, and creating alternative
    logins.
  • The mailbox screen now shows an icon next to messages that have been
    replied to. With conversations enabled, this shows if the most recent
    message in the folder for that conversation has been replied to.
  • The “More” menu at the top right of each expanded message now has a
    “Reply to Sender” option if the message was sent to a mailing list, and
    an “Edit as New” option for all messages.
  • The unread count is now shown first in the title of a page, so you
    can still see it even if the tab cuts the title short.
  • Better support for non-conversations mode. Now faster and fully
    non-conversational: replies to messages are no longer threaded with the
    message being replied to.

And, of course, several more minor refinements and bug fixes.

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