If you follow the tech media, you’ll know that every few months, some journalist or blogger will start speculating about the imminent demise of email. Headlines along the lines of “Email is Dying” or “The Death of Email” show up in RSS feeds all over the place. You know the drill. This has been going on for years and we’re surprised this argument hasn’t (pardon the pun) died out by now.
Here are some of the points that tend to be be raised:
- People today, especially young people, prefer the immediacy of IM and SMS. So email is dying.
- A variation on the above is that email is old technology (it dates back to the early 1970s) based on the concept of traditional postal mail and doesn’t suit our current needs very well. So email is dying.
- The amount of spam is huge. So email is dying.
One of the more recent claims that email will soon be a thing of the past came from none other than Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. Incidentally, he said this while launching Facebook’s new messaging system…
Email, however, is most definitely not dying, and here’s why.
Why email will not go away
One could write a major report on this, but we hope that the following arguments meet and remove any doubts you may have as to the continued viability of email as a communication platform.
Email is universal and extremely difficult to replace
Email is the one messaging and notification system that the Internet can’t do without. Think about it. It’s is the fallback we all have access to. It’s been an integral part of the Internet from the start, since well before the arrival of the World Wide Web.
Think Facebook is big? Email makes Facebook look small. Almost every Internet user out there has an email address, and most Internet services rely on this fact in one form or another, either for account verification and/or customer communication. Not to mention all those inter-personal emails. Then add how reliant many businesses are on email. For anything to completely replace email, it would have to be just as ubiquitous.
Email lets you read and write at your convenience
One of the main complaints is that email just isn’t “immediate” enough. But sometimes that’s a good thing. Just because I want to talk to someone right away doesn’t mean they will be able to drop everything to talk to me, or are available at all. This is a problem that instant messaging via mobile phones won’t solve either, because the receiver will in most cases not have time for your interruption, or even want to talk to you right there and then.
There’s room for multiple channels of communication
People will (or at least should) use the best tool for the job. Guess what, there’s room for both email, IM, Facebook and Twitter. Each has its place and there doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all solution for communication. Sometimes it’s good to keep things separate. Just look at how Google Wave tried to merge the IM and email worlds and ended up with a mess.
Spam is a problem, but it’s solvable
Spam filters are pretty darn good these days. Ask how many Gmail users have genuine problems with spam, for example. Not many. It’s also worth noting that ditching email won’t stop spam. Spam follows users and will by its very nature spread to other platforms as they become more common. Just think about the amount of comment spam that blogs are inundated with.
Email is highly flexible
You can send messages of any size (within reason), you can send attachments, both large and small. A nice bonus is also that email delivery is fault tolerant, which makes it flexible in the face of network or server interruptions on the Internet. If your mail server is down for some reason, my mail server will keep trying over and over again to reach it, until it succeeds. This, of course, is necessary for such a huge network as the Internet, where there isn’t a second when something, somewhere, is offline, crashing or malfunctioning.
Email is still evolving
It’s not like email is a completely static platform. Email clients are still innovating without changing the basic premise of how email works. For example, Gmail’s priority inbox doesn’t change email whatsoever, yet adds an additional feature that is useful to many. In other words, email is a platform that still has room for innovation, and better yet, without changing the current standard since it’s all done client-side.
Yes, email is being supplanted for some types of communication. But that’s to be expected. It’s progress. We have more choices for how to communicate these days, and can cherry-pick the best method for the task at hand. This doesn’t mean email is dying. It simply means that the communication ecosystem has expanded.