It's Probably Time To Stop Announcing The Death of Email

The unstoppable march of technology comes with a laundry list of fears for that which could be rendered obsolete. Uber will kill off local taxi firms, streaming services killed video rental, and video killed the radio star. But will collaboration platforms oust email?

Host Sorter on Unsplash

The first email was sent in 1971, the same decade that brought us floppy disks and VHS tapes. Unlike those, email evolved, becoming more useful and powerful over time. Its death has been declared, and redeclared, for well over a decade now—but many of us still live in our inboxes.

With the rise of platforms like Slack, which boasts 10 million+ daily active users, and as businesses integrate communication apps with digital workplaces making conversations searchable, a tidy inbox suddenly seems less important.

But the death knell for email isn’t sounding yet: we’re still sending emails, and in huge volumes. According to research from The Radicati Group, the total number of business and consumer emails sent and received per day in 2018 exceeded 281 billion and it expects this figure to grow to over 333 billion by 2022.

Has email really failed to secure its place in the future workplace? Are new workplace tools stepping on email’s toes? 

Sid Suri, CMO of Manychat, thinks email is now the channel of last resort for inter-office communication and in our personal lives, but says it’s unlikely to go away:

Email will continue to be a primary channel to communicate with somebody whose phone number you don't have, but it will continue to get chipped away by LinkedIn Messaging, or messaging inside of dating apps, and other such niche apps that will take over email's role for different use cases and replace it with more messaging-based solutions. While email will not be the primary channel, it is useful to have a channel of last resort that everybody is passively onkind of like your postal address. Email is the new snail mail in many ways.”

Laura Douglas, CMO of FountainheadME thinks email will survive because it has earned its stripes as a safe way to communicate.

She explained: “Email has a perception of permanence and security. If you were receiving a legal letter, important work memo, or final deliverable of a project, would you rather see it sent via a chat app or email?”

But Zohar Pinhasi, CEO of MonsterCloud says email is inherently flawed from a security perspective:

We've seen enterprises and even branches of government pay the price for that vulnerability. Cybercriminals are far more efficient at exploiting email than they are at infiltrating messaging apps and SMS-based communications. Just ask the city of Baltimore, which recently fell victim to a ransomware attack because of, you guessed it, an email-based attack. If we're dissecting this issue strictly from a security perspective, I wouldn't be surprised to see more workplaces move away from email over the next five to ten years.”

But that doesn’t make the alternatives safer in the future. Cybercriminals go where the users are and will simply turn their attention to whatever medium is the flavor of the moment with the mainstream.

Yogas Design on Unsplash

Christopher Martin, CMO of FlexMR, points out the demise of email is predicted every year but says the numbers don’t support the claims:

The volume of emails sent per day is still predicted to rise year-on-year until at least 2023. However, as volume grows so does noise. It’s therefore likely that the continued dominance of email is driving greater usage of both consumer and business messaging applications. Tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams in the workplace are filling the void of watercooler and informal chat between remote staff, while email continues to remain the stalwart professional communication channel of choice. Email is here to stay. At least for now.”

Many feel that the extra time taken to compose an email means better, more authoritative content than an instant message, but history tells us that tools which demand more of our time often lose out to easier and quicker alternatives.

Libby Calaby, director of BluMoon Consulting, says WhatsApp for desktop is now her primary tool for communication with friends, family and clients alike.

She said: “My clients want and need immediacy. They ping thoughts and ideas to me to sense check. They make quick changes to documents that take up less than one minute of my time. So, for them, email can simply take too long."

But, she conceded: “In many ways though, we have become victims of our own need for immediate answers from our colleagues and clients. After all, emails can wait til morning but WhatsApp messages? Not so much.”

Austin Distel on Unsplash

As wellbeing in the workplace becomes a business priority amid threats of occupational burnout and low productivity, it’s likely email will have a big role to play. As Calaby says, instant messages demand instant responses while emails can wait, and responses mulled over.

Many businesses today reserve email contact for external parties – like suppliers and clients – while internal comms and conversations between colleagues are all about quick-fire messaging, themed chat channels and private social media feeds.

But email continues to evolve and defend its relevance. Just look at genuinely useful tools and plugins that let users schedule messages to be sent in working hours, finish sentences for the sender, undo accidentally sent mails or blind copy people.

Gmail now offers a self-destruct option: by sending an email in Confidential Mode with an expiration date, senders can decide how long it will exist before it deletes itself from a recipient’s inbox. And powerful browser extensions and integrations with CRM systems are making email a lot more useful.

While email may no longer have the monopoly on workplace communication, I feel it’s hardly about to join the fax machine in the great electronic graveyard in the sky.

 

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The unstoppable march of technology comes with a laundry list of fears for that which could be rendered obsolete. Uber will kill off local taxi firms, streaming services killed video rental, and video killed the radio star. But will collaboration platforms oust email?

Host Sorter on Unsplash

The first email was sent in 1971, the same decade that brought us floppy disks and VHS tapes. Unlike those, email evolved, becoming more useful and powerful over time. Its death has been declared, and redeclared, for well over a decade now—but many of us still live in our inboxes.

With the rise of platforms like Slack, which boasts 10 million+ daily active users, and as businesses integrate communication apps with digital workplaces making conversations searchable, a tidy inbox suddenly seems less important.

But the death knell for email isn’t sounding yet: we’re still sending emails, and in huge volumes. According to research from The Radicati Group, the total number of business and consumer emails sent and received per day in 2018 exceeded 281 billion and it expects this figure to grow to over 333 billion by 2022.

Has email really failed to secure its place in the future workplace? Are new workplace tools stepping on email’s toes? 

Sid Suri, CMO of Manychat, thinks email is now the channel of last resort for inter-office communication and in our personal lives, but says it’s unlikely to go away:

Email will continue to be a primary channel to communicate with somebody whose phone number you don't have, but it will continue to get chipped away by LinkedIn Messaging, or messaging inside of dating apps, and other such niche apps that will take over email's role for different use cases and replace it with more messaging-based solutions. While email will not be the primary channel, it is useful to have a channel of last resort that everybody is passively onkind of like your postal address. Email is the new snail mail in many ways.”

Laura Douglas, CMO of FountainheadME thinks email will survive because it has earned its stripes as a safe way to communicate.

She explained: “Email has a perception of permanence and security. If you were receiving a legal letter, important work memo, or final deliverable of a project, would you rather see it sent via a chat app or email?”

But Zohar Pinhasi, CEO of MonsterCloud says email is inherently flawed from a security perspective:

We've seen enterprises and even branches of government pay the price for that vulnerability. Cybercriminals are far more efficient at exploiting email than they are at infiltrating messaging apps and SMS-based communications. Just ask the city of Baltimore, which recently fell victim to a ransomware attack because of, you guessed it, an email-based attack. If we're dissecting this issue strictly from a security perspective, I wouldn't be surprised to see more workplaces move away from email over the next five to ten years.”

But that doesn’t make the alternatives safer in the future. Cybercriminals go where the users are and will simply turn their attention to whatever medium is the flavor of the moment with the mainstream.

Yogas Design on Unsplash

Christopher Martin, CMO of FlexMR, points out the demise of email is predicted every year but says the numbers don’t support the claims:

The volume of emails sent per day is still predicted to rise year-on-year until at least 2023. However, as volume grows so does noise. It’s therefore likely that the continued dominance of email is driving greater usage of both consumer and business messaging applications. Tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams in the workplace are filling the void of watercooler and informal chat between remote staff, while email continues to remain the stalwart professional communication channel of choice. Email is here to stay. At least for now.”

Many feel that the extra time taken to compose an email means better, more authoritative content than an instant message, but history tells us that tools which demand more of our time often lose out to easier and quicker alternatives.

Libby Calaby, director of BluMoon Consulting, says WhatsApp for desktop is now her primary tool for communication with friends, family and clients alike.

She said: “My clients want and need immediacy. They ping thoughts and ideas to me to sense check. They make quick changes to documents that take up less than one minute of my time. So, for them, email can simply take too long."

But, she conceded: “In many ways though, we have become victims of our own need for immediate answers from our colleagues and clients. After all, emails can wait til morning but WhatsApp messages? Not so much.”

Austin Distel on Unsplash

As wellbeing in the workplace becomes a business priority amid threats of occupational burnout and low productivity, it’s likely email will have a big role to play. As Calaby says, instant messages demand instant responses while emails can wait, and responses mulled over.

Many businesses today reserve email contact for external parties – like suppliers and clients – while internal comms and conversations between colleagues are all about quick-fire messaging, themed chat channels and private social media feeds.

But email continues to evolve and defend its relevance. Just look at genuinely useful tools and plugins that let users schedule messages to be sent in working hours, finish sentences for the sender, undo accidentally sent mails or blind copy people.

Gmail now offers a self-destruct option: by sending an email in Confidential Mode with an expiration date, senders can decide how long it will exist before it deletes itself from a recipient’s inbox. And powerful browser extensions and integrations with CRM systems are making email a lot more useful.

While email may no longer have the monopoly on workplace communication, I feel it’s hardly about to join the fax machine in the great electronic graveyard in the sky.

 

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I'm a digital workplace entrepreneur who helps companies all over the world create their perfect virtual place to work, collaborate and engage. I started my company, Cla...