Email has been around for decades. The first email sent in 1971 crashed the computer that received it. They were right next to each other. Some curse that day, others still cling to old email apps with great adoration.
Then, a few years ago, along came apps like Slack, Trello and Jira and a bunch of others. The chatter of tech journalists and pundits was that the death of email was imminent. Stories ran amok that companies were making their mail servers walk the plank. That tools like Slack et al would solve the communications paradigm at work. We wouldn’t have to respond to Slack messages at night.
Except those apps got mobile apps and so, we answered them at night. Only it was worse because you got tossed into a discussion thread and others were doing the same and…where did that hour go?
And yet, email refuses to die. Why?
There are several reasons. One is generational. Now, nearly three generations have grown up with email. Many of us get an email address at an early age and by our early 20’s, we’ve settled on one we will likely keep for many years. Another is that it’s still a love of marketers and IT systems alike. When you start a company, you get an email address along with a laptop or desktop. It just, well, is.
Everyone asks for an email too. Signing up for a service? You need an email. Subscribing to a magazine or online publication? You need an email. An email address is a technology that has essentially become “invisible” in that it’s second nature to us, much like using a telephone is.
While the telephone has changed from being fixed to a place, from rotary dial to touchtone to in a handheld device with no wires, it is still a telephone. So it is with email and it’s very likely that email will be around a whole lot longer, despite the many threats that have been thrown at it over the decades. In the late 90’s, Instant Messenger tools like ICQ and AOL’s AIM were going to displace email, except they have been relegated to the digital dustbin.
What we can expect to see is deeper investment into innovating how we use email and making it a better productivity tool, but sadly, email notifications, the angst of achieving Inbox Zero and notification nightmares are here to stay. Simply put, email works and no one has figured out an effective replacement. Email is a multi-generational technology now and such tools are difficult to displace.