Is Email Dying? 2019-01-03

Is email dying? I have been thinking idly about this question for a while and reflecting on how much my use of my personal email inbox has decreased. I used to check my email inbox regularly, I even had it set up on my phone for a while so that I got notifications for new messages. Nowadays, however, I rarely check my personal email. Sometimes I don’t look at my personal inbox for over a week. When I do look at my inbox there are usually only messages that I’m not interested in like advertisements from stores I bought one item from a year ago, or a notification from Instagram that my aunt posted a picture of her dog.

One of the things email is really needed for on the internet is to sign up for accounts on websites. However, most popular websites now let you log in with your Facebook or Google account (or other OpenID providers). You don’t need an email address to get a Facebook or Google account, meaning that you can effectively use many account-based services online without having an email inbox.

Email is of course primarily a communication tool, but this purpose has, at least in part, been taken over by other services or apps such as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Discord, and Slack. Each of these offer better communication options than email for certain types of communication. Discord wins over email for informal conversations. Facebook and Twitter win for informal conversations to many people at a time. Email really wins for semi-formal conversations and for sending unsolicited messages, but eventually another app or service will replace even these types of needs.

I still have a lot of use for email in my work, but this too seems to be decreasing. Most important work-related stuff is handled by purpose-built websites. For example: booking rooms for meetings, applying for vacation leave, sharing documents, and deciding times for meetings. At work I mostly use email for irregular activities and communication with others outside my workplace.

I don’t believe that email will entirely disappear within the next thirty years, but I do think there may be a point when most new internet users will have no email accounts. I wonder how soon this will happen.

It will be sad when email dies. Email is really the only communication service on the internet where the users own their inbox. If you have email set up right, with an email client on your home computer, you can still read your email when your internet connection is interrupted. I think there is a lot of value in having the possibility to back up your own personal communication that is not reliant on a website to work correctly.

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