Email is not over

Ok. Let me make you comfortable right away, I know this is a controversial topic and we will find advocates in both teams. Some hate email and stay away from it as much as they can, and some love it despite its old age and the everyday growing gap it has with modern technologies. I would even add that some love hating email while others hate loving it, but this is another story…

Technologies never last forever. Almost.

We all can agree with the fact that technologies are evolving faster and faster, and it is hard to believe that we will have to carry the burden of email messaging for the rest of our lives. Right, but wheels are still round and around since ancient times aren’t they? (and I have not heard of any project aiming to make them become square shaped). So what is going to replace email when it happens? Hard question to answer. We could start looking at the (numerous) existing attempts at making things a little different. Of which the vast majority lay flat in the cemetery of revolutionary and promising apps.

Email is rusty, but…

So why does Team Email still advocates against the ‘logic’? There are lots of reasons in favor of email, which I will try my best to list:

  • email is for all: old, young, individuals, professionals… as long as humans (even this is questionable)
  • email is open: it doesn’t belong to anyone, which partially explains why it is so widely used around the globe. No other digital messaging option can compete to date.
  • email is asynchronous: meaning you don’t have to be in front of your screen to receive messages. Email is even intended to work this way: answering to messages some time after they have been delivered. Email still works for you when you are busy with something else, and you can catch up later.
  • email is basic simple: although it has evolved through the decades, we are all experts at emailing.
  • email has become a sort of digital ID, which is mandatory to use almost all of the internet and even in some real-life situations. And we can get as many of them as we want!
  • email is the only digital mean to communicate formally. Who would imagine sending (or receiving) a message with its employer, a supplier, a customer, or any formal entity, through whatever instant messaging app existing out there?
  • email kind of replaces the actual mail in many cases. Which is definitely not the case of any other digital messaging application currently on the market.
  • email is a tremendous source of information and revenue for lots of professionals. Some industries are entirely relying on it, such as digital marketing, e-business, etc. Why would any of them get rid of such a magic tool?
  • and I may still forget quite a few pros in favor of the aging tool…

… but email is also terribly frustrating

  • Who has never grumbled against a full pile of messages right after opening its inbox first thing in the morning? Or when getting back from a (not anymore) very resting vacation time?
  • Who has not been frustrated by the poor quality of the messages that were delivered to him? Aside from spams that mostly disappeared (thank you Gmail), why the heck are we still constantly looped into conversations that are really intended to be 2 person discussions?
  • Why in the world is it so difficult to accomplish the obvious task of… understanding a conversation’s history, when it was initiated a while ago?
  • Is there anyone out there who can explain why we are drowning under tons of newsletters and still can’t get control over that?
  • How come are we supposed to stir together within our inboxes pots: formal messages, newsletters, personal notes, private conversations, confidential documents, calendar events, shopping data, finance data, unsolicited messages, advertisings and many more…? This results in an extremely blurry tank full of very important and very useless information combined. And the means to sort this out differently than with a very high time consuming manual process are quite inexistent.
  • and I may still forget lots of cons against the #!1zsHK! tool

The paradox of email

Within about 5 decades (that’s right, already!), the email has successfully won the unprecedented price of the most necessary and essential exasperating tool. Many people hate email, while others love it, and very few are just ok with the tool which crystalizes feelings. In this context, the email application landscape has been quite steady for about that last 15 years. I’m not saying that nothing happened on the market during the period, but rather that email has never really been threatened by any competitor. During this time range, Gmail captured a very significant chunk of the market for individuals, Microsoft Outlook and IBM Lotus Notes fought against each other to take over the enterprise side of things (the latter didn’t win by the way), and lots of startups emerged with the strong intent to disrupt the market. Still, email remains being email. And 99% of the promising startups are now dead. What to say about Google’s own shot at taking over Gmail with Inbox? Or about Slack the messiah that has finally turned to become “just another” communication tool for companies? It is very successful for sure, but far from shaking the juggernaut. Doubting about the statement? A simple search request on the web will clarify things for you: email is still getting more and more users year over year, and it is still expected to grow in the foreseeable horizon.

The key learning

A huge pain is being felt by so many people for decades and despite its faults, the tool has the lowest churn any SaaS company would dream of, especially during such a long time. It simply means that the advantages of email are so strong that they are very much worth suffering from its drawbacks. Why are the email strengths that much valuable in the eyes of its users? Let’s rewind a little bit and review the pros in favor of the digital dinosaur. Email is for all, email is open, email is asynchronous, email is basic simple, email is the digital ID, email is the tool to communicate formally, email enables whole industries to make billion dollars of revenue, some of them almost exclusively rely on it. The common points to all of this? Email is either the only one tool to deliver these competitive advantages, or is light years better at them than any other app out there.

So where are we heading to?

For now, a few interesting attempts at improving the old man (SpikeHiriFrontSuperhuman or again Spark) provide hints of the only changes that we can expect to feel anytime soon. And I am no prophet, but as long as no solution will decently compete with all of the email’s advantages as well, there is no point trying to fix areas where it struggles to make us happy. At least for those who want a tiny chance to threaten the dinosaur’s dominance…