Sunday, 22nd January 2012
How many times have we heard that email is on its last legs? It’s just, like … so yesterday. Everyone hates it, it’s the bane of our working lives, the spammers have highjacked it and besides, we’re all using social media now – right?
An article in last week’s UK edition of The Week magazine (subscription only), stated that more than 107 trillion emails are sent every year but its grip on our lives is loosening. It went on to report the decline of email use among young people (email is dead says Mark Zuckerberg as he launches his Facebook Messenger service!) and its loss of favour in the workplace where, as Maija Palmer (Technology correspondent for FT.com) reports, “… a number of companies have been quietly moving away from using email as the primary way of communicating within the company”.
Whether you take the somewhat radical view of Thierry Breton, chief executive of Atos, who announced that he would ban the use of email in his company by 2014, or a more relaxed approach, the prolific use of email in organisations is a tiger that needs to be tamed. But is it really dying?
As usual, a quick search on Google for the apocalyptic terms “end of email” (allintitle: "end of email" restricted to the past month) reveals the usual varying points of view – from "Will 2012 be the end of email?" (assumption = yes) to "2012 is not the end of email"!
Let’s be clear here; it isn’t the possession of an email address that’s the bone of contention (after all, we need one of those for signing up to any of the plethora of social media services), rather, it’s using an email client (e.g. MS Outlook) as the primary means of communicating that’s the issue. Well, is easy to see why this is still the case.
Compared to other modern communication systems, email has been around for a long time (the first ARPANET email message was sent in 1971) so it has a long(ish) pedigree and as a result is deeply entrenched in our digitally communicative pysche. Added to this is the ease of setting up an email address with a dedicated client.
As John Naughton, writing in the Guardian Comment is free says, “Organisational addiction to email has long since passed the point of dysfunctionality and now borders on the pathological, with employees sending messages to colleagues in nearby cubicles, people covering their backs by cc-ing everyone else and managers carpet-bombing subordinates with attachments”.
The real problem, in other words, is not that email is dying but that it's out of control.
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