The Story of Email’s Demise is Greatly Exaggerated

OK, I’m biased.  We write email tools.  I have a vested interest in people continuing to use email.  All that said, I really don’t get it when writers use the imminent demise of email to discuss the proliferation of spam and IM and collaboration tools.  There’s always going to be a need for the type of communication email provides – personal correspondence between a few that can be consumed on the recipient’s time schedule and used as documentation of decisions, information, etc..

Though the title of BusinessWeek’s article, E-Mail is So Five Minutes Ago indicates otherwise, they appear to agree with me. While business folk are starting to find new ways to collaborate using web based tools like wikis, email’s not really going to go away:

‘Though the likeliest
scenario is that e-mail will remain the prime tool for notification and
one-to-one communication, "a huge percentage of collaboration will
occur outside of e-mail, with a continued rise in these other tools,"
says Clay Shirky, associate teacher in the interactive
telecommunications program at New York University. "There’s an enormous
untapped value to be gotten by getting collaboration right."’

This is spot on.  There are some tasks that people try to perform within email that are best implemented using other tools.  One of my first jobs was working for an IT Consulting firm that heavily invested in Lotus Notes.  We had 100’s of Lotus databases for all our collaborative work.  Our employees were more productive, clients could see the value, and we built internal communities that formed the backbone of a very successful corporate culture.  Email was not the right place to do this.

But it’s not going away.  Just look at the results of this informal IM vs. email test.  Or the analysis here that talks about the productivity gains to be had from being connected via email.

Email’s not going away.  But Bob Geldof is right – we could all stand to figure out how to make better use of it.

One comment.

  1. the Internet’s Killer App

    Email is the Internet’s killer app, so it’s no surprise to me that, when given the opportunity, the web luminaries at the Future of Web Apps conference chose to design an app to help them with email. In a panel