Thursday, 17 June 2010

Email death?

This is an interesting blog post on the BBC's dot.maggie discussing the recent proclamation from Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, that the humble '@' is doomed. Her logic seems reasonable: that if you look at teenagers few of them use email compared to facebook and similar.

She may be right on that count but I think she's over looked one fatal flaw. Ubiquity, everyone has email (well everyone online) fewer have facebook, you need an email account to set up facebook, and buy things, and sign on to many websites. While the good 'ole boys at facebook would love to replace email it's not imminent and frankly I think their track record isn't good enough to convince enough people to use them such that they become all encompassing enough to remove email, I certainly hope they don't.

I think we'll have email for a while yet if for no other reason than it's a standard not controlled by any one group, it's by no means perfect but equally if you dislike your provider you can switch and lose very little, you don't need to convince all your friends to jump ship with you, or set up ghost accounts (like I'm thinking of doing with FB), or fake things you can simply change you email: gmail boring you? try hotmail, or yahoo, or just use a gorilla mail account that goes after 1 hour.

I think there is a secondary element she has forgetten as well which is that the Internet is no longer just about the up-and-coming teens its about everyone; email may be old but it's known,  it's used a by professionals, O.A.Ps, primary school kids and teenagers. Yes, lots of people chat on facebook but I doubt many people use it or twitter to distribute minutes for a meeting or arrange how a problem is going to be tackled, and even if they did what happens if they need to leaise with someone on bebo?

I'm sure she's right, that in the long run email will die, but I expect that will only happen when something completely replaces it. Google tried with wave but failed at the same fatal flaw she missed - everyone has to use it and not realise they are using it, it has to be ubiquitous. What ever replaces email needs to be the next phone number, the next email - most likely a universal id you can pick up and put down but will always find you be it email, phone call, video call or what ever; this is not an advocacy for ID card style thing, I'm talking of a phone number (or email address or what ever) that everything is routed through. We're nearly there as this already happens on most smart phones but using a variety of different addresses (your email, your twitter, your facebook your phone all have separate accounts) the next big thing will be a combination account for at least phone, email, and probably video calls. The problem with this is that it will probably require a big chance: tele companies giving up and becoming purely supply of data while people move themselves around separately to their distributor within the Internet (I won't call it the cloud because I don't think that's what it'll be, maybe cloud 2).

2 comments:

  1. Yeah, she is just wrong. :-) You're absolutely right: email is used across the board. I find the notion that Facebook could replace it absurd!

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