We love to hate on email. We get too much of it. We spend too many hours of our day managing it. Young people say that email is antiquated; it’s only for old people.
Yet email grinds on. We all use it. Alexis Madrigal’s recent article in The Atlantic calls it the “cockroach of the internet. You can’t kill it.”
We made email do too many different tasks
Madrigal explains that email is not the problem. We created a problem when we asked email to do too many tasks. Over the years we’ve asked email to not only send messages, but also to be:
- A newsfeed
- Your passport and identity – your email address established your bona fides on the internet
- The main way you communicate socially on the internet
- A digital package delivery service
- The primary way you communicate at work
Fortunately, other applications now do many of these tasks that have overburdened email. Social media for social communication. Dropbox for package delivery. RSS and other services to get your news. Work-chat tools like Slack that have ambitions to be your communication hub at work.
When you peel back these tasks, you find email to be a communication tool that works the way the web was meant to work. It’s lightweight, it’s open, it works everywhere on every device.
Email is getting better
Madrigal says that not only is email losing its burdens, email itself continues to get better.
Compared to email in the nineties, “The process of receiving email has gotten so much better, friendlier, and more sophisticated.”
Oh, and by the way, email does mobile really well. It’s lightweight and downloads quickly. Tools for forwarding or processing are built into the mobile device.
Software companies continue to invest in email.
Gmail created a Priority Inbox to separate the email that individuals send you from your commercial email.
Companies like Unroll.me allow you to bundle multiple “incoming personal communications like newsletters into one easy custom publication.”
Spam has been made invisible by filtering algorithms.
In other words, inboxes are getting smarter.
What is the result of these changes to email for the individual?
Email has gotten much smarter and easier to use, while retaining its ubiquity and interoperability. But there is no one company promoting Email (TM), so those changes have gone relatively unremarked upon.
What is the impact on the individual? We are gaining more control over the messages we receive. We experience the benefit of an open platform that is decentralized, interoperable, and lightweight. Tasks and services can get bolted onto it. It’s not a walled garden where you don’t own your content or your contacts.
These changes to email are good for marketing and sales
What about the company that wants to communicate substantive information with customers and potential customers? The company that wants an opportunity to educate and persuade?
As email continues to evolve and become more useful for individuals, it will be a medium that people use to request useful and educational material from you.
Email gives you more control over your message and the timing of your delivery. It leaves you less beholden to the walled garden of social media companies. It enables you to send information that your customers want to receive.
Email, for your customers and you, is “the way forward for a less commercial, less centralized web experience.”
Photo Credit: AC