As you may be seen already, Gartner has published some time ago a report about the future of email and predicted, that "Social networking will replace e-mail as the primary means of communication for some business users by the end of 2014 for at least 20 percent of business users"
. From the other side, there was an interesting event, organized by Lifehacker in Australia and called "Email is dead
" with Alistair Rennie
(IBM Lotus VP), Genevieve Bell
(Intel Fellow, Intel Labs, Interaction & Experience Research ) , Adele Beachley
(Managing Director, Research In Motion Australia & New Zealand) and Mark Pesce
(Futurist). The discussion was very interesting and covered not only business related questions but the whole picture of using email in near future. In addition there are lots of articles, telling that email is going to die, for example this articles:
Edward F. Moltzen - "R.I.P. E-Mail, 1961-2010
John C. Dvorak - "9 Reasons E-Mail Is Dead
I just want to summarize the information I've got and formulate the possible nearest future of the email, as I can see it now.
The advantages of Social services, who are replacing email are:
- Suitable to solve particular tasks (share and discuss files, news sharing, real-time communication).
- Simplicity of self promotion (through blogging/microblogging, etc.).
- Covering big auditorium (potentially any internet user can read your blog post).
- You are always controlling subscribing and unsubscribing to/from any news feed.
- Personalization and showing information in context.
- Search and different kinds of navigation (for ex. through tag clouds).
From the other side, email still have advantages comparing to social services:
- Security (encryption and digital signature).
- Universal (can be used for almost any kind of activity from project planing to sharing documents).
- Width of usage (almost everyone have email inbox, except some geeks).
- Simpleness and habitualness of usage.
Then I decided to take a look into my personal Gmail inbox and here is what I found there:
1. Emails from different sites, that I didn't unsubscribed yet because they still have no RSS streams.
2. Booking confirmations from different hotels and airlines.
3. Registration information and notifications from different forums/discussion boards.
Very few personal letters received and even fewer were sent. This means that for personal communication I use social tools more than email. My inbox is now mostly used for official letters and in some cases for the kinds of collaboration for which I have no social tools yet. For example, I need to share an information and some of people are offline and I can't do it by instant messaging. Or I need to say something to person, who is using different IM/social tool and email. For example in Russia people are using local social tools instead of multinational Facebook or LinkedIn.
The other statistical researches are saying almost the same, for example this two from "Pew Internet & American Life Project":
All this leads me to the following conclusions:
1. Email still has strong advantages, that social services can't solve or need some more time to deal with. By this I mean mostly it's width of usage, security and privacy and therefore it's more suitable for official kind of communications.
2. Email also has disadvantages, because of it's asynchronous type of nature and pretending to be universal. For example it's server disc space utilization, sharing large files and that you always need to know an address of the person or mail list to share something with some big auditorium.
The idea, which I finally come to is that the social software still can't replace email in some cases and email still has some potential for evolution. The direction of this evolution is in leveraging some functions of social services, such as different approaches in searching information, inside the email inbox and integrating with social services on the level of user interface and usability. Lotus Notes is definitely going this way, and doing it even faster starting version 8, but it still has something to improve in this space. That's why I have really big expectations from IBM Project Vulcan, announced in the beginning of this year
and I'm sure we will be able to touch it next year, after Lotusphere 2011.
So I should say, the email is not dead, it just need somebody to reinvent "email-human" interface.
BTW you can see some examples of prototypes in my post early in this year: Do you want IBM Project Vulcan? I mean Now!