Manufacturer: Sockem Software
Price: $295 US
Reviewer: Noah Yasskin
E-mail saves time and money, particularly when you want to send multiple people the same message. One hundred letters can be sent as easily as one letter, and for the same price—absolutely nothing. Because of this, e-mail is the natural choice for distributing identical information to a group of people. Along with its benefits, though, e-mail has brought its share of problems—the biggest one is spam. However, just as there are legitimate uses for bulk mail, there are legitimate uses for mass e-mail mailings.
Smart companies on the Internet are replacing expensive paper mailings with digital mailings whenever possible. It looks antiquated when a company—especially one in the computer industry—sends me a press release by mail. Doing so reflects poorly on its understanding of technology. Physical goods can't be delivered digitally, but information is destined to be transmitted like e-mail: effortlessly and inexpensively. However, many businesses are already having a difficult time managing the flow of e-mail and can easily have numerous mailing lists with thousands of addresses. Sockem Software's first product, SockMail, was created to help organizations effectively use lists of e-mail addresses. SockMail is described by its creators as a “100% Java client/server e-mail list management system”, and it is just that. Web sites overburdened with extensive lists of e-mail addresses will find this application valuable.
Sockem Software is a 100% Java software start-up based in New York City's “Silicon Alley”. The company is focused on Java because it believes the language's multi-platform and networking strengths will be successful in the marketplace. Java will provide the foundation for all of Sockem Software's client/server applications. In the company's eyes, a browser with a JVM (Java Virtual Machine) is the universal client. If Java is the mantra of Sockem Software, e-mail is the mantra of SockMail.
Web sites commonly have a text box in which people can sign up to be included on or dropped from a mailing list. This is usually done by having a CGI (common gateway interface) such as a Perl script send the information to someone who then manually adds and deletes names on a list of subscribers. It is difficult to automate this process with scripts and clumsy to paste names into a mail program in the blind copy field. SockMail's primary goal is to make the whole process of creating, maintaining and sending out information to lists of e-mail addresses as efficient as possible. It's a very simple and focused application that doesn't do much more than that. Users do a lot of the work by adding and deleting themselves from mailing lists. This is its big selling point for companies wanting to automate their web site subscription lists. SockMail's interface is functional but not pretty—it has the look of a shareware application.
Unlike Listserv and Majordomo mail programs where users send commands within an e-mail to add or delete themselves from mailing lists, SockMail's lists are maintained through Java applets. Additionally, SockMail doesn't allow posting to people on a list. It is specifically designed for sending out mail to lists, not to facilitate communication between people on a list. A Listserv or Majordomo system could be configured to have much the same functionality as SockMail, but these systems are more difficult to set up and maintain. SockMail is much easier to install and integrate with a web site or Intranet; however, it could never replace a Listserv or Majordomo program.
SockMail is designed for businesses with mailing lists of no more than 50,000 people. This number should be adequate for all but the largest company mailings and will hopefully dissuade spammers from abusing the application. It is an ideal tool for distributing press releases, e-zines, company updates, invitations or any targeted mailing. A large company could also manage internal mailing lists easily with SockMail. It is not designed for blind mass mailings or spamming. This product could be used to do that, but its potential to send out truly massive lists is limited. The lists have to be loaded into the browser, so available memory limits the potential number of recipients. Additionally, the server may run into memory problems sending to lists of over 50,000 names. In part, this is because Java uses static memory allocation for its applications. By default the server allocates around 20MB of memory, and this limit can be raised or lowered using options in the Java interpreter.
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