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Why Email Can't and Won't Die

Posted by on October 24, 2011

When you think about it there are really only two things that are unique to every individual, their email and their phone number.  This is important when we talk about emergent collaboration especially when the topic of moving people away from email comes up.  I know that there are many people who believe in the death of email, minimizing the usage of email, or perhaps switching people away from email to another platform, but I don’t think this is really going to happen.

Let’s assume for a moment that there was no email and you wanted to get in touch with me, your options would be to leave a comment on my blog (assuming you read it), send me a message or a reply on twitter (assuming you use the service and can find me), a note on linkedin (again assuming you can find me), or a facebook message (also assuming you can find me and can friend me).  Now let’s say I get 50 messages a day on various platforms, this becomes inconsistent and inconvenient both for me and for the people trying to get in touch with me.  Now, if you are a colleague of mine you can use the phone, an internal collaboration tool (assuming there is a standard platform for this), or perhaps you can come over to my office.  Furthermore, we start to run into problems with archiving, labeling, attachments, and a host of other things that email has become very good at.  When we have someone’s social media account we are never sure if we can really get in touch with them.  Email on the other hand is one of the few constants we have when it comes to communication.  Not only that but email is oftentimes required to access entire websites or download pieces of content.  Virtually any service you sign up for any product you order requires you to enter an email address.

Collaboration platforms today don’t have standards, meaning that every platform can handle data in their own way, on their own technology, and in their own format.  Thus if you wish to switch from one platform to another and wish to take your data with you then you’re going to have to do some work to make that happen.  Collaboration platforms are not constant regardless of how hard they try to be. Not everyone uses them the same way, some uses multiple platforms, and some prefer not to use anything at all.

What’s happening right now is organizations are trying to develop central hubs for their organizations aka “the front door for the enterprise,” meaning one place that employees can go to in order to access all of their information, a work “command center.”  While many vendors are attempting to do this there isn’t really anything that can come close to solving this problem.  Vendors are spending a lot of time focusing on integration, in other words, being able to pull in multiple systems into a single system, clearly something that is quite costly, time consuming, in most likely never ending.

But, let’s remember that everyone has two single unique identifiers, their email and their phone number, chances are that one of these things can be annotated to everything that someone does from sharing a piece of content, to engaging with a customer, to sending a colleague a message.

I wonder if integration is really the answer here.  Maybe instead we should be looking at aggregation and filtering instead of continuously trying to fit one system into another.  I actually believe that email can be the solution to this problem because it is a constant that you know everyone you communicate with uses.

So here is the puzzle, knowing that virtually everyone on the planet has two unique identifiers, an email address and a phone number, what would you devise to allow for collaboration and communication among employees and among people in general?

I’m going to talk about this more in upcoming posts as I have several ideas.

  • Great article Jacob. Email isn’t going away, I cant think of any suitable alternative that offers the same functionality.

  • I don’t think e-mail’s will disappear or dissolved. It is a main needs in the internet now adays, actually not only in the internet but also in our daily lives. It is a must in our life. There’s no way of letting it go.