OX summit 2019 in Madrid: mailbox.org and enterprise partners meet

Did you know that the mailbox.org online portal with its web-mail interface, calendar, address book, file storage and everything else is fundamentally based on the „OX App Suite“ by the German company OpenXchange (OX)? We at mailbox.org are actively involved in the development of this software, so as to create the very functionality that makes mailbox.org so great. Our team has frequent exchanges with the developers at OX and works very closely with them to make sure the feature requests we receive from our users as well as any security improvements are appropriately considered in the further development of the OX software.

This article reports from the annual OX conference in Madrid, where between 16th and 18th October 2019, we met with providers and carriers from around the world.

The wider theme of the conference this year was "Keep CTRL", or „Keep control“ in less nerdy terms. The various talks, discussions and workshops at the event were not just about topics related to data protection and privacy, but also more generally about who will have authority or control in the future about what is happening on the Internet. It is well-known that dominant players such as Google or Facebook are increasingly encroaching on areas of the free Internet by establishing access barriers and data silos, where users get trapped with solutions that make it difficult for them to change to an alternative provider later, if they so wish. Projects like OpenXchange are becoming more and more important in light of this situation, as they are the standard bearers for the propagation of open source, the use of open standards, and making sure control rests with the users, rather than big companies. All the major participants of the conference were in agreement that alternatives must be provided in order to try and reestablish some balance and create a counterweight to the data-collecting US giants that are currently dominating the market. Europe appears to be making good progress in this regard.


New OX App Suite releases

Anyone interested should watch our blog for further articles about the new features that will be introduced in the upcoming OX releases. At this point, we can already reveal that one of our most sought-after requests from last year’s OX summit in Rome will be delivered in the next OX version 7.10.3: Users will get a comprehensive and fully automated interface for exporting calendar data, contacts, files, and all other data stored in OX.

Yet again, the conference this year provided ample opportunities for our team to agree new feature requests and discuss usability issues with our colleagues at OX. As is so often the case, having informal channels between people can be conducive for getting things done. :-)


Chat-over-IMAP (COI) beta presented

One highlight of the event was the presentation of a beta version of Chat-over-IMAP (COI), to go live at mailbox.org as one of the first providers within a few weeks, according to current plans. Robert Virkus, Director for App-Development at OX, and Rafael Laguna, CEO of OX, led the first live demo to show how the chat system will be integrated into OX.

What makes COI unique is that it is vendor- and software-independent. Users of all mail providers can benefit from the chat functionality, and depending on the mail client used, it is possible to participate in chat sessions without the use of further software. Most importantly, there is no „Vendor-Lock-In“ as it exists with systems like Skype or WhatsApp, where the users have no alternative to running vendor-specific client software, which may or may not collect data to spy on them.

There is a first beta version of a COI messenger available for Android and this is currently being thoroughly tested by the mailbox.org team. While it is to be expected that beta-stage software may not be working perfectly yet, the direction in which the overall development trend is moving is clear: Within the coming weeks, mailbox.org servers will be outfitted with the necessary modules to drive COI services in the future.

While COI is a positive development, we are also aware that the technology needs further work to really mature. For example, copying answers to PGP-encrypted mail messages into a COI chat doesn’t quite work yet with the current COI chat client.


ID4me conference

At the fringe of the OX summit, around 80 people met at the ID4me conference day. ID4me is an alternative to the well-known Google- and Facebook login screens that are currently used by many web portals, forums, or online shops. Since March 2019, our users benefit from having more control and the option to be independent from those services. The fact that mailbox.org was the first provider to be offering ID4me to its users did attract a lot of positive feedback and commendation at the summit. We are now hoping that other providers, some of which have considerably more manpower and resources than mailbox.org, will soon follow suit and make the necessary investments to further promote this technology. Because without additional providers, there will be less websites to support it, which makes it less attractive for additional providers to join – a typical chicken-and-egg problem. We believe that when you see a useful and convincing piece of technology, it is sometimes necessary to step up and give it a chance, like we did with ID4me. In any case, support is already growing, with well-known CMS software such as Wordpress and Joomla now offering plugins to facilitate ID4me.

Another success, albeit more symbolic: In March 2020, thousands of people will meet at Europapark Rust for the „Cloudfestival” conference, and the CEOs, IT bosses and admins of global companies and providers will be able to use ID4me to log in to the Cloudfest portal site – currently only if they have a mailbox.org account, that is ;-)

And this is not rare, as we have experienced in many conversations on the fringes of the conference and at dinner...