In Defense of Email

From time to time, there’s always an article that proclaims a new technology as the demise of email.

Advances in cell phones, voice mail, instant messaging, RSS, Facebook, Twitter, Google Wave – they all have been proclaimed as email killers.

Facebook (and even Microsoft’s Sharepoint technology) have their place – facilitating the collaboration of groups and the collective wisdom to complete projects. Instant Messaging (and texting in general) allows for faster communications. These styles of working cannot easily be done over email.

But what would it take to really kill email? The new technology would have to have a rich set of tools (for the interface, searching, and backup), the ability to serve as a matter of public record (e.g., compliance with government regulations), and the ability to send messages one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many (among other requirements).

However, the most important function that email provides is the ability for you to leave a message for someone and later, at their own computer and their own leisure, have them read it. This concept is called “Store and Forward”.

So far, nothing beats the Store and Forward concept.

Granted, there have been other technologies (social networks in particular) that store your messages for reading later by an audience (in fact, Facebook (and others) have email systems built into them) but because email was “first to market” it has become entrenched like no other technology.

By the way, did you know that email is 38 years old this month? Ray Tomlinson is widely regarded as the first person to send an email from one computer to another (first to himself for testing, then later a message to his colleagues explaining how to use email).

Yes, email has been the killer app for 38 years and I’m guessing, the next 38.Happy birthday, email!