One of the great things about the advance of technology is the inevitable discussion about the death of its predecessor. The way technology works today, there’s a new version just waiting to be rolled out almost as soon as the newest addition hits the market. And most usually, there’s a crowd full of onlookers jeering the old technology and doing all they can to hasten its departure to announce that it is indeed “dead.” Many technologies have been affected by this process, and now, one of the latest targets is e-mail.
The perpetrator of this particular killing can be fairly attributed to social media, but is e-mail really that dead? Or is it simply so unobtrusive that no one notices it quietly doing its job?
In one corner we have the people who think that e-mail has been around for so long that it’s beyond due for a more efficient replacement. Meanwhile, in the other corner resides a group who believes that the fact that e-mail has remained a top form of communications technology for so long is self-explanatory when considering its vitality today.
So who’s right and who’s wrong in this on-going debate?
Admittedly, the “e-mail is dead” crowd does have some points to its credit. Social media use is exploding all around the world, especially as part of the “mobile lifestyle.” The rise of mobile devices is tailor-made for social media use, but not quite so much for e-mail, which depends more heavily on full keyboard access and use of reasonably proper syntax and grammar. Compressing a thought to 140 characters or a few lines inevitably makes for faster expressions, and thus, faster response time. Plus, it's got plenty of room to truly bring people together – something the comparatively point-to-point e-mail doesn't do so well, even with CC: and its more polite equivalent BCC (News - Alert):.
But e-mail isn't just “the old system.” E-mail is still in wide use to this very day, and for many very good reasons. When it comes to transferring files, social networking has a long road to go before it can match the ease of an e-mail attachment, despite its seemingly unending possibilities. E-mail has a greater versatility, too; not only can it match a social network for speed, it can also allow for delays where needed, and can easily be referred back to later on in the event that references of some kind are needed in a conversation.
What's more, e-mail is perhaps one of the easiest systems to establish, both on a network and in Web-based equivalents. Just signing up for an Internet account, broadband or otherwise, comes with an e-mail account. It's widely offered, easily accessed from anywhere, and even offers timestamps for maximum transparency and accountability.
Additionally, e-mail's comparatively small sizes and text-based focus make for maximum communication, even on limited network space. There are essentially no worries about bandwidth while doing e-mail (considering how many e-mails rate in the kilobyte size, why would they?) Additionally, this makes it a great alternative for fixed and mobile networks alike.
Furthermore, consider the value outside of communication. When users shop online and in store, they are asked for and must provide their e-mail addresses, while social networking credentials are an add-on. That's not likely to change any time soon, and given the rise of online shopping – especially mobile shopping – e-mail is set to have a place in everyone's communications for some time to come.
Sure, social networking is providing a significant and valuable service. It’s skyrocketing in user rates as we speak and it’s rallying people together like no tomorrow, but it seems it cannot trump good old e-mail – yet.
Yes, it's made careers for former nobodies who rallied millions together and turned into a pundit or a tastemaker almost overnight. It got two little girls a puppy and a million likes to their Facebook (News - Alert) profile in just seven hours, for crying out loud, but there's no denying that the old technology of e-mail still touts unbelievable value, and as such, won't be thrown over any time soon.
So is e-mail dead? No. And it's not likely to be any time soon; however, it is changing, and that's still something to watch.
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