CloudMagic wants to be the gateway for all your personal data [Q&A]

CloudMagic is a superb search tool that sadly doesn’t get the attention it fully deserves. If you’ve ever complained about how long it takes Google to find a certain message in Gmail, or have wasted far too much time trying to track down a particular tweet or Facebook status update, this is the solution you need (full disclosure: I’m a massive fan and couldn’t imagine life without it).

I spoke to co-founder Rohit Nadhani about his product, how it began, and the company’s plans for the future.

BN: For the benefit of readers who may not be familiar with CloudMagic, can you tell us a bit about it?

RN: In a nutshell, CloudMagic lets you view, search and act on your data (email, social, contacts, calendar, files, etc.) scattered across various services -- from multiple devices. Just as Google is the gateway to the World Wide Web, CloudMagic aspires to be the single gateway to all your personal data.

BN: It started life as a browser extension for Gmail, but now offers support for loads of other services including, most recently, Facebook, Dropbox, and iCloud. Was it always the plan to support so many services?

RN: We started as a browser extension because we were getting frustrated with the inability of Google Desktop search and Spotlight to search cloud data -- especially when more and more of our personal data was moving to the cloud.

We started by creating a high performance index on the local hard-disk. Users loved the functionality. They wanted the same functionality on their mobile devices and they wanted us to support more services. Therefore, we moved the index to the cloud and started working on more services.

BN: How many services do you currently support?

RN: Google Services (Gmail, Contacts, Calendar, Docs), MS Exchange (Mails, Calendar, Contacts), Twitter, iCloud, Dropbox, Evernote, Box, Yahoo Mail, AOL Mail, GMX, Mail.com.

BN: What other services do you plan to add in the future?

RN: SkyDrive, ActiveSync, Hotmail, MSN, SugarSync, Pocket, and Instapaper are extremely popular requests and we are working on it.

BN: Google is obviously the master of search, but you’ve previously said that you don’t think it, or Apple, or Microsoft will win the personal search market, why?

RN: Apple, Google and Microsoft control the platforms and they will definitely add improved search as a "feature" for their own services. However they are intensely competing with each other on most categories and they are never going to provide true value-add on services from other vendors.

Let’s take a slightly convoluted example: Do you think Apple will release an Android app that will provide high quality experience for Hotmail accounts? Of course not. In fact, just the other day Google announced it was dropping support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync.

Only independent vendors can deliver the best integrated experience across all services. CloudMagic is like Switzerland. We’re neutral.

BN: Greplin (Cue) was working on a similar tool, but it didn’t work out. Why do you think that was?

RN: First and foremost, the Greplin team is great and we have a lot of respect for them. I think Cue is a great idea and there is a huge opportunity for an "automatic" calendar. I don't know the exact reason why they pivoted. Maybe they raised VC very early on, and they were expected to grow much faster than they actually did.

We continue to be big believers in the personal data management category and we are executing aggressively in that direction.

BN: You’ve released apps for all of the major mobile platforms and extensions for the major browsers. Do you have plans for native apps for computers, and tablets like Surface?

RN: Yes. We are working on native apps for all major platforms. We want to be a complete replacement for Windows Desktop search and Spotlight.

BN: What’s the eventual goal for CloudMagic?

RN: To become the single gateway and workspace for all your data scattered across multiple services.

BN: CloudMagic is currently free -- any plans to charge for it? How will you make money?

RN: We are introducing a freemium plan in the next few weeks. Basic usage is going to stay free. Power users will pay a nominal monthly fee.

BN: A lot of personal search engines store the search index locally, but that doesn’t really work in the Post-PC world. What’s your view?

RN: We have been thinking about this category for a few years and came to the conclusion that having a local index on phones/tablets will never work. Firstly, iOS does not give you the ability to execute complex background tasks like downloading gigs of data from online services.

Even if complex background tasks were possible in Android, it would take away precious storage space on the device, drain your battery and completely destroy your data plans! Lastly, users on MacBook Air (which has low processing power) don't like background sync tasks as it slows down their MacBooks.

Cloud based aggregators like CloudMagic do all the heavy lifting on the servers giving users a lightweight and snappy experience.

BN: Gmail introduced us to the idea of searching for messages, rather than sorting, but even now people still label and star emails to make them easier to find. Do you think we’ll ever just rely on search?

RN: While labels/folders/starring might work for a short period of time, eventually any system of organizing your data will fail, for 2 reasons:

1) Because your context will switch every few months. A folder structure created today is irrelevant to you every few months.

2) Because most humans are not disciplined about it. There will come a week when something is far more important to you than organizing your emails, and you'd stop organizing it forever after that.

Also, precious time has been wasted in creating and maintaining your labels/folders. This therefore creates further disorganization of data because now you have labels/folders that you don't really use, so half your data is in your inbox and the other half has labels.

BN: Obviously your service indexes a user’s data and stores it on CloudMagic’s servers, which may concern some users. How secure is CloudMagic?

RN: There are 2 things:

1) We have very straightforward privacy policy.

2) We are building CloudMagic to be a clean productivity tool without social or sharing aspects (like Evernote). If you are a power user, pay us a monthly fee. We are not going to make money off your data, ever.

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