You use it, I use it, your grandmother in Punta Gorda, Florida uses it. Tupperware? No. Guess again! Email. Yes, electronic mail, or commonly referred to as email since around 1993, has been the leading form of internet communication for the past two decades. But the first email was actually sent in the early 70s, which makes the medium well, um, er . . . shall we say just a bit behind the times.
Email is an odd duck. Here’s why. I signed up for Gmail over 7 years ago. It was July 27, 2007 to be exact, just a month after the first iPhone was released. In terms of technology that’s almost the middle ages. And aside from some new bells and whistles to manage messages, the core functionality of my Gmail account is what it was in July 2007. And after 4132 sent messages, I’m still going strong. So what gives? Habit, convenience, and the fact that unlike my younger millennial peers, I neither like to nor am good at texting on a phone (texting may be outdated too and that’s a topic for another article, since voice control systems like Siri mean that folks can compose and send emails faster than ever).
I’m a technology and innovation advocate but when it comes to internet communications I’m the first to admit that I’m stuck in the dark ages. But I’m afraid I’m not alone. Email shows no signs of letting up anytime soon? The Radicati Group’s Email Statistics Report for 2013-2017 shows the following trends:
* Global email is expected to rise from nearly 3.9 billion accounts in 2013 to over 4.9 billion accounts by the end of 2017 – an average annual growth rate of about 6% over the next four years.
* Email is still the preferred form of communication in the Business world. In 2013, Business email accounts total 929 million mailboxes. This figure is expected grow at an average annual growth rate of about 5% over the next four years, and reach over 1.1 billion by the end of 2017.
The younger generation is certainly more inclined to see email as outdated. In 2010 Mark Zuckerberg declared that “Highschool kids don’t use email, they use SMS a lot. People want lighter weight things like SMS and IM to message each other.” And that view has held true over the past 4 years as forums like Facebook and Twitter have continued to serve as the preferred forum for communications among millennials.
Communication styles, especially in the world of business, have changed dramatically in recent years. So much information is thrown at us on a daily basis that business leaders have very little time to wade through long messages. Trends are towards shorter, crisper messaging. There have been important changes in the world of enterprise instant messaging in recent years. Tools like Yammer and Microsoft Lync are making communications and collaboration much more simple and straightforward. But as one writer has observed, “nothing has arrived yet that beats the open, universal nature of email. If you want to get in touch with someone, you can bet they probably have an email address. If you can find it, you can contact them.”
This is not to say that we’re stuck indefinitely with email. Efforts are alive and well to deliver enterprise no-email messaging capabilities. Asana is one of the most notable platforms on the market today. As a teamwork communication manager that is designed to manage projects and tasks without email, Asana has started to gain some solid traction among startups and innovators.
Like any new technology, however, disruption takes time. While we’re certainly ripe for a post-email world, convenience and habit and universal appeal make that Gmail and yahoo account all too easy to use. And so I admit that I won’t be ditching email anytime soon. But I’ll be looking to keep my options open!