RealSnailMail™ is the world's first webmail service to operate using live snails as e-mail delivery agents, and we've got a review for you that's been in progress since June of 2008.
I tried out the RealSnailMail service on June 18, 2008, sending an email to who else but my girlfriend at the time. It's as easy as heading over to the RSM website, filling out an email form, and clicking send. As soon as you do, your message zips over to an electronic dispatch point equipped with an RFID broadcasting antenna, mounted on the side of a snail habitat in London.
Inside the snail habitat is an escargatoire of snails, each numbered and equipped with its own RFID mailbag. If a snail happens to wander by the dispatch point, one single message gets transferred from the mail queue to the snail, which is then tasked with getting that message over to an RFID pick up point on the opposite side of the cage. And when I say "tasked" I mean that the snail just wanders around and delivers the message whenever it feels like it. Flat out, the snail would be able to traverse the 50 centimeters from pickup to drop off in about eight minutes at a top speed of 0.0023 mile per hour, but there's lots of exciting things to explore and eat along the way, so transfer times range from a couple hours to several weeks depending on the priorities of the snail.
Since each snail can only carry one single email at a time (they're little guys, after all), your message will likely spend a couple years waiting in a digital queue. When it finally gets picked up, you'll receive an email update introducing you to the particular snail that has been entrusted with your delivery and linking you to their online profile. My message was picked up by Agent 80 aka "Lady," who's delivered 70 messages with an average transfer time of only 18 hours 16 minutes and 41 seconds. My email was in good, um, hands.
Lady obviously underestimated the importance of my email, 'cause she took about 22 hours to deliver it the 50 centimeter distance to the RFID pick up point. As soon as my message was transferred, I got an update and my recipient got the original email, exactly 2 years, 9 months, 10 days, 5 hours, 19 minutes, 7 seconds after I sent it. If you'd forgotten at this point that I'd sent that email to my 2008 girlfriend, that's okay, because she's not my girlfriend anymore. Yeah, awkward...
In general, while I'm quite satisfied with the service, if you're thinking about sending a RealSnailMail message, you should definitely be aware that it may take rather a long time. Since the service has added a few more delivery agents, the current average delivery time is down to only 615 days, 15 hours, 37 minutes, and 27 seconds, which is really not that bad considering how old the universe is and stuff.
I really like the idea of including a random biological component in the digital email delivery system, and as a user, it forces your emails to take on an entirely new significance, in some ways outweighing even a handwritten letter: if you're sending something that won't be delivered for years, it requires you to carefully consider the paths that your life, and your recipient's life, may take.
And in case you were wondering, after a few years of service the snail delivery agents enter retirement and start collecting pensions in the form of leafy greens. If only the rest of us could be so lucky.