I saw an interesting little article on the BBC on Email v social media:
The headlines were unequivocal – Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had announced that email is dead. The truth however was a little more prosaic. At the launch of the social network’s new messaging platform, he had said “we don’t think a modern messaging system is going to be email”, and that the new system was “not email”.
Mr Zuckerberg wasn’t the first to suggest that email is obsolete, and neither has he been the last.
Today email is ubiquitous. Technology market researchers Radicati see the number of email accounts worldwide growing from 3.1bn in 2011 to nearly 4.1bn by 2015. Email use is lower among teenagers – but whether this changes when they start work is unknown.
So just how likely is it that the creaking inboxes that haunt many of us will soon be replaced?
One man with more reason than most to have an opinion on the matter is email specialist Mimecast’s chief scientist Nathaniel Borenstein, co-creator of the Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) protocol. This is the internet standard that lays down how messages are formatted. It lets your email contain different characters, have attachments, and contain other types of files, among other things. Mr Borenstein says it is used more than a trillion times a day. He says:
“Email is still growing. There’s no real sign that social is making a major dent in it. For the most part I think they fill different functions, but that they connect with each other. I think they’re symbiotic. I’m reluctant to cast them into opposition.”
Not everyone is as sunny as Mr Borenstein when it comes to the future of email, however. Lee Bryant is co-founder of Headshift, the world’s biggest social business consultancy. He believes email’s dominance over business communications is coming to an end:
“When email was first developed it was an excellent point-to-point communication tool when nothing else existed. I think we’ve reached the stage where email as means of communicating is overloaded. I think we will see what happens on email today transitioning towards various kinds of both internal and consumer facing social tools.” ”
I think fundamentally one of the biggest problems is that social tools communicate slightly more in the open, they create ambient knowledge and ambient awareness for others who are not even in the conversation. Email doesn’t do that, it’s quite a lonely medium. You receive a series of messages, you hold them in the inbox and have to move, delete or act on every one. Whereas with flow tools the flow moves past you whether or not you actually open the messages.”
What do you think? Is email on its death bed?