30 May-2014

Email is not dead

Email is not dead. It’s just not the only option anymore.

I love eamils

I really believe that email, as a communication medium, is one of most powerful and reliable way of communication, so lately I was doing research about how I see the future of emails, specially that, although emails were first invented in 1971, they never changed.

Email might have became more powerful, but it never changed. And while preparing for that research, I came across a very interesting article; the title of it was: “9 Reasons E-Mail Is Dead”, and It was first published on PC Magazine in March 2009 here. I totally have a different opinion about emails. Let me explain.

The writer, who I didn’t know much about until I read that article, wrote the following:

E-mail, once the most effective way to communicate with your tech-savvy associates, has become useless for too many people. Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon? It’s essentially dead. So now what are we supposed to do? Phone? Most of you reading this column will understand what I’m saying— those who don’t understand have either already given up on e-mail or never found it very functional in the first place.

I don’t want to sound rude, but I really don’t understand what he is saying, I never gave up on e-mail and I have always seen email very powerful (and functional). The writer continues with nine reason which were the main reasons why - from his point of view - email is died. I can say that seven of those reasons are not related to the email system itself. They are some wrong (if we can say so?) practices from some emailers.

According to the writer, people change their e-mail address far too often; some people use their work email as their personal one, and when they leave their work, they “fall off the map”. I can’t really deny that this happens, but we can’t hold the email, as a communication medium, guilty for that. People who do so are mainly not emailers to start with, and probably they used emails just for their day-to-day work, rarely some personal emails every now and then. And although they make reaching them via emails impossible when they change thier email addresses, but this can’t claim the email system as died.

The second reason the writer mentions is people who change their email address because they receive too much spam.

First, allow me to give you a piece of advice, guys, about spam emails and managing them. I have two email addresses, one is my personal email (me@alybadawy.com) at which I can be reached by friends, readers, and pretty much any human being; and another one which I only use to sign in to websites, subscribe into services, or make orders online, and with any website that may send me spam later. If you keep this practice, you will end up with much less spam.
Second, people don’t move away from their apartments or houses for receiving loads of spam mails, so why would they change their email address after receiving many spam emails? Besides, most email service providers have very good spam filters that can give you the peace of mind you need; they also can learn from you what should be filtered as spam and what should not.
How could that be a dead system?

his point will cover three reasons of what the writer saw to be why email (again, in his opinion) is died. The writer spoke about three types of emailers from whom you don’t get a reply back:

  • Those who only create an email address (and give it out) just because it’s the thing to do, but they never use it.
  • People who clean their mailboxes and not read every single email they receive.

Well, I have to say email is not a fashion, or something you just brag about having. It’s 2014, if you don’t have an online presence, you are probably died.

And cleaning mailboxes? I don’t think this is a bad practice (sometimes?). There are those emails which you can tell what they are talking about just by knowing the sender, the email subject or just reading the very first line of it. People are entitled to choose what to read, whether or not they should give you their time to read your email or not. If you don’t think so, please go ahead and drop the “caller id” and the “reject button” from your cellular phone now; and then you may tell me why Mailbox Application is very successful if it’s very mission is to get you to Zero-Inbox.

  • Unused mailboxes that are not shutdown.

Well, It took me sometime to figure out what the writer really means by this point because it just conflicts with what he said earlier.

The writer complains about mailbox that are not used by their owners for sometime and they don’t get shutdown so you, as a sender, are not sure if they got read or not.

Well, people may be away of their emails for some period for one reason or another, if the service provider decides to shut down their mailboxes for being idle, that email will be useless and when they come back, they will come on a new address that you may not know (this problem sounds familiar?).

If you have a problem that you are not sure whether your email gets read or not, then you probably not targeting someone personally (or you would know they are offline for sometime) and you are just sending some spam or marketing emails. If you are sending a personal email, you should expect a reply or an action, or you should be asking for one, and you should follow up until receiving that reply, action, or get told that emails are not the way to communicate with this particular recipient for the moment.

The writer says that another reason why email is died is that there is no insurance that email has been received and read. I believe emails are very reliable when it comes to making sure emails land in someone’s mailbox. If I send you an email and it doesn’t bounce back within three minute, then I am sure it has hit your inbox. And again, you have the right to choose whether to read it, reply it, or even trash it. Just like in cellular phones, people may choose to ignore your calls, but you are always sure your number will show in their missed calls log.

The writer also lists another reason, but this one is mainly in the email system itsel and not related to emailers’ practices, the competition with IM and closed systems. Allow me to quote him:

It amazes me how many people - and there’s no age factor here - eschew e-mail for IMs or even Twitter messages. There are some people you can contact on Facebook or LinkedIn who will not answer their e-mail. I find this particularly weird.

This would really amaze me as well if it’s true. Actually this was the main topic of my research. Email may now have other competitors, but they didn’t defeat it just yet. Although Instant messages are just another very powerful way of communication, they have some drawbacks. IMs require that both parties are connected on the same time, and have the time to hold a conversation! and because this is not usually the case, emails are powerful, you send your emails when you are connected and have the time, and the receiver should reply back when they are connected and have the time to reply back. Just fair for both parties. This makes more sense when more people are involved in the conversation (or CC’d in the email).

Social media like Facebook and Twitter offer some communication channels for their users to exchange messages. But these can’t compete with emails for multiple reasons.

  • Twitter only allows short messages (140 characters only), with difficult methods to add attachments or links, and only between two parties.
  • Facebook, while allowing more lengthy messages with multiple parties, it involves that both the senders and receivers know each other, and doesn’t separates the message content (in the case of business email for example) from their personal lives on facebook or any other social media.

Yes, social media may be a good alternative for emails in some situations, but they can’t defeat emails when we talk about business emails, marketing emails or emails that require some privacy between the senders’ and receivers’ personal lives. It feels more easier to give my readers’ my email address than giving them my personal facebook page. also, it’s an undeniable fact that all social media and IM services require email address in order to be able to sign up for them, while majority of these services use your email address as your identifier or username.

Again, email is not dead. it's just not the only option anymore.

Update:

When I tried to reach the writer to tell him that I have mentioned and replied to his article here - and I was looking for his twitter or facebook page, I only found his email address in his bio page in PC Magazine’s website here (http://www.pcmag.com/author-bio/john-c.-dvorak), so I emailed him, and a minute later, I recieved this:

This report relates to a message you sent with the following header fields:

Message-id: <A5A7B91C0F5946F38B926F206A53A1A7@alybadawy.com>
Date: Sat, 31 May 2014 01:17:49 -0400
From: Aly Badawy <me@alybadawy.com>
To: john_dvorak@pcmag.com
Subject: Regarding your article in PCMAG about "9 reasons why email died"

Your message cannot be delivered to the following recipients:

Recipient address: john_dvorak@pcmag.com

Reason: Remote SMTP server has rejected address
Diagnostic code: smtp; The email account that you tried to reach does not exist. Please try double-checking the  recipient&#39;s email address for typos or unnecessary spaces.
Remote system: dns;ziffdavis.com.s10a1.psmtp.com (TCP|17.158.161.2|34963|74.125.244.10|25)