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Will there ever be a world without email?

August 14, 2013

In ‘The times they are a- changin’’ Bob Dylan said ‘The first one now will later be last’ and this rings true in the world of technology. Often an early innovator begins to congratulate itself on its market leading position only to be overtaken on the inside by a new kid in town. Just ask Lord Alan Sugar as his Amstrad organisation failed to see the charge coming over the Atlantic in the early 90s first from Apple and then Microsoft. Apple did it again recently to mobile phone manufacturers like Nokia who seemed frozen and unable to fight back.
 
This story fits in well then for those that began to predict the demise of email from the turn of this decade onwards. With the arrival of Facebook and Twitter many thought that the writing was on the wall for email and that, at best, it would remain a business tool only and could even be wiped out completely. 


But that initial prediction has now been revised and ROI on email marketing has never been higher.  Advanced techniques such as triggered messaging along with the increased use of smartphones have meant that email has seen a resurgence of late. This seemed to be confirmed recently when Salesforce purchased Exact target for $2.5 billion.    

So could there ever be a world without email? Certainly some functions of email have been replaced by other technology. The round robin emails of the early noughties showing pictures of newborns and years out in Oz have now been replaced by Facebook. In our working lives project tools such as Basecamp or CubeTree have replaced emails alone as a way of managing group projects. LinkedIn provides a great service when business contacts move companies meaning their previous email address ceases to exist.

But the growth of all online activity over the last 10 -15 years means that having an email address is as vital as ever. Email provides a central identity to use when joining new social networks or creating an account when buying online. One email thought leader, Dela Quist, recently described not having an email address as the electronic version of being homeless. Some people don’t do Facebook and others don’t do Twitter but everyone has at least one email address. You certainly wouldn’t get very far without one. 

Social media platforms are subject to fashion (how old fashioned do Friends Reunited or MySpace seem now)? but email has been there right from the start and is as relevant as it ever was. You can see it always playing a part in our personal and business lives. Will it last forever? The pace of change in technology is fast but it’s still very hard to imagine online life without it or think what could ever replace it. 

Posted by Jenni Malley
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