My host comes with Squirrelmail and Horde, and I dislike them both. Squirrelmail is too bare-bones for me. It's hideous to look at. And Horde is too over-the-top and slow for me. It takes about 17 clicks to get to the inbox once you log in. No call for that.
Really, what's the difference between one webmail app and the next, except the interface? So I'm looking for the nicest interface I can find, so long as the backend still works too.
So first I tried RoundCube, the much-acclaimed AJAX webmail app. It's pretty impressive in the "Wow, someone got a web browser to do that" sense. You can drag-and-drop things etc. But you can tell it's an AJAX hack. Things subtly don't work. If something is loading in the background, and you try another action, things often freeze or break. The folder list on the left doesn't update correctly; you have to click off a folder and click back on it again to get it to reset the message count. If you move some items to a folder, and quickly move some more to a different folder, one or the other operation will silently fail. Etc. etc. The problem (with all AJAX apps) is that there's all kinds of crazy server communication going on in the background and you never know what it's doing or if it's done or what. At least in a traditional web page you click a link or button and then you see it loading and you wait for it to finish. And then you click another.
Other things are broken in Roundcube too, like putting a < in a subject causing the subject to be blank. Probably some kind of relic of having an interface that is itself made of a bunch of changing HTML tags. I started the bugzilla for RoundCube and there's just an enormous number of problems with text parsing and encoding etc. So yeah, I passed on this. Maybe in 6 months if it's more stable I'll try again.
I considered Hastymail next. But development has apparently been stopped for a long time, and although it's not as bare as Squirrelmail, it's possibly a bit over the top in terms of "Let's make an interface that looks like it came from 1992". I like minimalistic, but Hastymail looks huge and clunky to me. I don't think it has threaded messages either, which is one thing I really love(d) about Gmail. Hastymail does have some neat extra stuff like showing emails from multiple folders at once in a multi-levelled list, but none of it looks all that useful.
I finally settled on Ilohamail. It's fairly minimalistic, but it looks nice. And it has just the slightest touch of AJAX, like threading conversations into expandable blocks in the message list. Development also seems to have stalled on it for a while, but we'll see how this goes.
And now, in any case, my emails are no longer being auto-read, stored away and turned into ads by Gmail's server farm. Sweet freedom.