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Communications Social Networks Technology

Email Is Not Going Anywhere 235

Posted by Soulskill
from the give-me-smtp-or-give-me-death dept.
An anonymous reader writes: It seems the latest trend sweeping the online world is the idea that email is on its way out. Kids are eschewing email for any of the hundreds of different instant messaging services, and startups are targeting email as a system they can "disrupt." Alexis C. Madrigal argues that attempts to move past email are shortsighted and faddish, as none of the alternatives give as much power to the user. "Email is actually a tremendous, decentralized, open platform on which new, innovative things can and have been built. In that way, email represents a different model from the closed ecosystems we see proliferating across our computers and devices. Email is a refugee from the open, interoperable, less-controlled 'web we lost.' It's an exciting landscape of freedom amidst the walled gardens of social networking and messaging services." Madrigal does believe that email will gradually lose some of its current uses as new technologies spring up and mature, but the core functionality is here to stay.
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Email Is Not Going Anywhere

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 16, 2014 @11:51AM (#47684787)

    Email is actually a tremendous, decentralized, open platform

    Right, because people understand and care about that.

    So much that they've flocked by the billions to closed, centralized platforms.

    Here's the thought process of most internet users: "Are all my friends doing it?" "Does it have cute pictures of kittens?" YES -> Click on it.

    "Open", "decentralized", or "user controlled" don't enter into it at all.

    • by multi io (640409)

      Email is actually a tremendous, decentralized, open platform

      Right, because people understand and care about that.

      You could say people didn't understand or care about the web being a decentralized, open platform either. But that was still the reason why it took off, and ultimately the (indirect) reason why everybody started using it.

  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @11:57AM (#47684815) Homepage

    "“There is no point in emailing students any more," he told The Times. "They get in touch with us by social media, especially Twitter, and we’ve had to employ people to reply that way. "

    Only because "they" are idiots (both students and faculty apperently). An autoresponder that tweets back "Dear idiot student. It's called email. We use it for a reason. Use it or don't expect help." is all that they needed to "employ". Allowing students to dictate the use of inefficient mechanisms rather than teaching them the right way is pretty ironic for a school system that purports to be a University.

    • That works for my university. It's different when you're dependent on the students 'cause they're essentially your customers, not your pupils...

      • Bullshit. Unless you think they will tranfer elsewhere because they can't use the twittersOMFG! I can hear the coversation between student and pops now: But Daaadz! I wants to go to anotha univsty! They don't letz me use da twitterz!! I gatsta use da emailz to getz da helpz! I'm sure pops will start looking around for a different school pronto!
  • Duh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @11:58AM (#47684821)

    Email Is Not Going Anywhere

    Duh. Instant messaging and email often serve different purposes and priorities. For example, at work, I don't use IM because *my* time is more important than your time. Email allows me to respond according to my schedule. Call me if something's really important.

    • Re:Duh. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by wiredlogic (135348) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @12:42PM (#47685009)

      At one place I worked they used IM extensively in-house to send messages. It was a bit weird when someone two cubes over messaged you but for quick updates it is more efficient than getting up and disturbing neighbors with a voice conversation.

      • by SeaFox (739806)

        It was a bit weird when someone two cubes over messaged you but for quick updates it is more efficient than getting up and disturbing neighbors with a voice conversation.

        Using IM also creates a written record of the conversation, which I'm sure your employer kept logs of for that reason.

        • With properly configured IM systems the employer doesn't see it unless the employee shows the content to them. The employee may keep logs, but in a good organization the purpose of that is to have the information at hand for future reference, not to stab each other in the back. If employees are keeping the logs for the latter purpose, it doesn't matter what communication medium is used, as the company, or at least the department, is already fscked.

          The right tool for the right job has always been an impor
          • by BitZtream (692029)

            ... with a proper sys admin, the employee doesn't have a choice about what his company does and doesn't see on company time, company equipment, and company networks.

            The company simply doesn't allow any one but their own, and logs their own ... just like email.

            I'd expect someone with a low UID like yours would show that they have a little real world experience, yet you don't seem to. You seem to think like kids who've never worked at a real business who think they get to dictate terms to their employer.

          • With properly configured IM systems the employer doesn't see it unless the employee shows the content to them.

            Don't kid yourself, it is their equipment, everything on it belongs to them. My employer monitors everything that happens on my desktop, email, IM, RDC, the lot. They have been doing so for the last 13yrs I have worked for them. I really couldn't care less, I have never known them to use it against any of their 180,000 employees although I'm sure browsing stats would be used if they had to cut back on staff for some reason. Stuff we want to keep for future reference is CC'd to the project's mailing list by

        • IM has been around for a couple of decades now, if it was a superior replacement for corporate email then it would already be dead and buried. It seems to me that people who think email can be replaced by facebook simply don't have the work experience to know what the hell they are talking about.
      • The most important reason: the business world loves written audit trails of conversation.

    • I guess everybody has their own communication priority level classification system. Of couse any arbitrarily detailed list could be made, so here's mine:
      1) email is the preferred base
      2) IM - critical yet tolerant to high latency.
      3) Phone - emergencies, or other rare events that require full-duplex
      4) Knock at door - what have my kids done now?

    • by SeaFox (739806)

      Duh. Instant messaging and email often serve different purposes and priorities.

      Part of the blame for this goes to users and service providers. When people get used to the idea of email moving immediately they start to use email as a form of IM, and then I get calls about how "I sent this email three minutes ago and they haven't gotten it yet". It's email. There is no guaranteed instant-delivery on it. Same with attachments. Email is not made to be a file-transfer method, but the proper alternative means teaching people to use FTP clients..

      • Actually, email is intended to be a file transfer method [wikipedia.org]. It wasn't originally [ietf.org], but now it is. That's what the little paper clip is for. It isn't intended for large file transfers, but that is an ever changing definition as bandwidth becomes more cheap, fast, and ubiquitous. What was once considered a "large file", say 1 or 2 megabytes, is now considered not very large at all. E-Mail will still be here in 2055 if we are, but 25 GB will be a small file for the purposes of this discussion.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 16, 2014 @11:59AM (#47684825)

    This is not some latest trend. People (mostly clueless tech journalists) have been saying e-mail is going away since ICQ first appeared on the scene. Heck, they may have said it before that, but I first remember the cry of "e-mail is dead" when some tech writer first stumbled upon ICQ. The idea that e-mail is dying is just as stupid now as it was then. E-mail is a standard, e-mail is universally used. How else are you going to activate your IM account or contact a business or notify a wide range of customers about your product updates? E-mail is not going anywhere.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      E-mail is a standard, e-mail is universally used. How else are you going to activate your IM account or contact a business or notify a wide range of customers about your product updates? E-mail is not going anywhere.

      The management of my apartment building seem to have two ways of communicating:

      1) Facebook group
      2) Posters/notice in my mailbox

      Sure you can reach them by email and they'll reply by email. But my impression is that this is a "legacy" method compared to a Facebook message. If it's not important enough to warrant physical notices, it's Facebook or not at all.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        And some people 'only communicate via twitter' ... that doesn't make it any less silly than only using AOL chat rooms.

    • How else are you going to activate your IM account or contact a business or notify a wide range of customers about your product updates?

      So we're stuck with email because people refuse to move on? Yeah, I'll agree with that.

      Email will eventually die though. The young ones have already quit using it to communicate with friends. Newer businesses use newer protocols like RSS to distribute their news feeds. I'd have already ditched email entirely, except that too many people assume that an email address is something everyone has, and so without one you're a second-class citizen on the internet, barred from participating in online forums and

      • by BitZtream (692029) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @04:51PM (#47685991)

        The young ones have already quit using it to communicate with friends.

        No they haven't. Facebook was a fad that was growing with young ones until they realized it sucks and its no longer the place they go. They still send email though. Moving to twitter for some things? Sure ... except when they want to keep things private.

        Newer businesses use newer protocols like RSS to distribute their news feeds.

        RSS has been waning for a while, no one outside the techie community watches RSS feeds.

        I'd have already ditched email entirely, except that too many people assume that an email address is something everyone has, and so without one you're a second-class citizen on the internet, barred from participating in online forums and from making online purchases.

        And there you've just contradicted every point you were trying to make.

        Email is almost dead.

        Except that every alternative you've claiming to it ... assumes you use email. Do you not realize how silly that sounds?

        I know too many people who, while they have an email account, it really isn't something they check every day.

        Me too, but they aren't checking Facebook or twitter every day either.

        because it just isn't the best solution for anything it does

        Thats about the most ignorant statement I've ever seen.

        making it worthless for anything besides communicating with people who haven't yet figured that out

        Which would be pretty much everyone else on the planet except fad following teenagers. Once you get out of high school you'll realize how silly you sound.

    • That's like saying "the postal service is not going anywhere", because you need a mailing address to get a credit card, and you need a credit card to pay for internet service, and you need internet service to access your email. Sure, that's all true, but postal mail is clearly no longer the relevant means of communication for almost anyone. Given the general disdain for it among many people of even my generation, one might even argue that "postal mail is dying" despite it being a standard, universally use

      • And lest someone rebut that email in 1995 was open, remember that only the subset of people who had chosen to "log into cyberspace" or "take the on ramp to the information superhighway" or whatever other stupid phrase was used at the time had access to email. Even then, unless you knew someone in person or had some other means to contact them (like the postal service), there wasn't an easy way to know what their email address was.

        I don't think I know the email address of any non-work person I've met since,

  • by markdavis (642305) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @12:01PM (#47684839)

    Email is the common denominator in electronic communication. Period. Nothing else can match it when it comes to being well known, compatible with everything, and even its flexibility. Spam sucks, and there are still some issues with the way people USE Email (or incorrectly use it), but it is *the* way business communicates now. I would be crippled at work without Email.

    If you want to talk about a dying communications technology, that would be facsimile. Our fax volume is a small fraction of what it once was. Still important to have around, but people go out of their way to avoid it now. We have large scan-to-PDF-EMail copiers all over, making it so much more convenient, too.

    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @12:34PM (#47684975) Journal

      There is still some faxing going on at our office, but the ubiquitousness of easy-to-use scanners means more and more of the documents that we used faxes for are just being sent via email. We won a contract a few years ago and literally had the hundred page document faxed to us, and then we signed and witnessed the back sheet and sent it back via fax. The last amendment was done via email. When even the lawyers are walking away from fax machines, it is definitely a technology on the wane.

    • by Wraithlyn (133796) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @01:25PM (#47685191)

      Exactly.

      How do people sign up for Facebook and Twitter, or practically anything online? By providing your email address as a unique identifier and verifiable communications channel.

      It's pretty much the bedrock of online identity.

  • And life goes on (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tough Love (215404) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @12:03PM (#47684849)

    Email is only losing the people we want to lose. You know, the ones who broadcast that joke of the day email every day CCed to everybody they know, or have ever heard of. Now, please just be good and take all that to facebook. Thxbai.

  • by paiute (550198) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @12:06PM (#47684867)
    FFS, is this going to be another breathless article about how corporate email is going out to be replaced by Yammer or some other platform de jour? Because that shit is just a waste of time. When my corporation jumped on the Yammer train (no doubt after a fiery sales pitch by some consultant), I started to see - in my email inbox, ironically - the hourly Yammer feed. It was 95% comprised of threads started by upper management which had zero to do with my day's work and which accreted into long long long posts as middle and junior managers jumped in with witless 'great idea!!!!' comments. You could smell the fecal matter on their noses. The other 5% was actual information passing between business units I had no contact with or interest in. But I am sure that in the next year or so some bright MBA will be sold on the idea of abandoning email and transitioning over to whatever the kids are using that week so that instead of getting actual targeted communications in my inbox I will be deluged with useless bullshit.
  • No wonder... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuietLagoon (813062) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @12:08PM (#47684877)
    ... the students are moving to Twitter. The article says that at Birmingham University it took a week or two before the administration responded to emails. That problem is not with email, it is with the University's administration.
    • by Nemyst (1383049)
      Yeah, it's harder for PR to let a tweet sit unreplied to for weeks at a time. An email is so easily "mistakenly" routed to the spam folder.
  • E-mail marketing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 16, 2014 @12:38PM (#47684997)

    I'm in e-mail marketing.
    Wait; not the spam kind, but the kind you have to double opt-in to before recieving only those mails you explicitely want.

    The e-mail marketing market has been watching social media (mostly facebook and twitter) with interrest, as it was promissed to be the next big thing for marketeers. As it turns out, social media has already had it's popularity peak and it wasn't very high. People still use e-mail far (talking magnitude-level "far") more than social media.

    Not talking about the individuals on twitter tweeting to the whole world whenever they take a shit or eat a meal (preferably not in that order), but about the hundreds of people who don't do that but still communicate with their friends, family, collegues, etcetera. Those are the silent majority.

    From a marketing point of view, if you could either spend 1,000$ on e-mail or 100,000$ on twitter, you'd have more success with e-mail.

    In hindsight, social media has never even remotely been a thread to e-mail dominance.

  • by ZorinLynx (31751) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @12:43PM (#47685015) Homepage

    Everything requires an E-mail account. You need an E-mail account to make a Facebook, Google, Apple, etc. account. It's the "out of band" communications method with which someone can be reached that is universal and not tied to any specific company or provider.

    If E-mail has to go away, something else needs to replace it in this manner. Phone numbers could be one way; there's already services that exclusively use phone numbers to authenticate (Telegram messenger for instance). The problem is most people, including myself, don't want to give their phone number out to everyone. E-mail, I could care less, or create a throwaway account.

    E-mail is too useful. It needs to stick around.

    • by Lennie (16154)

      Email is federated (it has a standard protocol and a domainname).

      All those other solutions are silos that can't talk to each other.

      Facebook to Twitter ? Twitter to Whatsapp ? Nope.

  • "The web we lost" (Score:5, Informative)

    by l2718 (514756) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @12:45PM (#47685023)
    The author is quite confused: email predates the web by decades. It predates the internet.
    • The author is quite confused: email predates the web by decades. It predates the internet.

      Yes, the author has a credibility problem. Even if his message is 100% accurate, it's hard to take him seriously when he can't distinguish between the Internet and the World Wide Web.

  • Originally email was decentralized in a practical way. Now, unless you arrange for your outbound email to arrive from a server operated by a large email provider, your deliverability is probably low. All of the email reputation systems, blocklists, DKIM, SPF, etc. are advertised as anti-spam measures. The reality is that they force email centralization in a way that helps the monitoring of email by the major SIGINT players.
  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @12:54PM (#47685065) Homepage

    One of my back-burner ideas is speeding up email forwarding. Most email forwarders (sendmail, etc.) accept emails, put them in a queue, and then later spool them out to the destination. This adds a minute or so of latency. It's done this way for historical reasons. In the early days, the destination mail agent might be down, or the mail transfer might be over some polled protocol like UUCP.

    That's dead. Today, if the destination mail agent exists, it's probably up and immediately reachable via a fast connection. So a modern mail fowarder should accept the incoming email via SMTP, and then, while holding the incoming connection open, send the email on to the destination mail agent. Any problems are immediately reported to the sender via SMTP status code.

    This not only speeds things up a bit, it eliminates "bounce messages" generated between mail agents. Problem reports come back immediately, as SMTP errors. There's a series of open TCP connections from sender to the receiver's IMAP server. From the IMAP server to the final destination, today you usually have some kind of push notification. So you get the effect of instant messaging, using existing email protocols.

    This also eliminates "joe jobs", where impersonation generates vast numbers of bounce messages. The spammer just gets lots of SMTP errors, which never bother anybody else.

    • One of my back-burner ideas is speeding up email forwarding. Most email forwarders (sendmail, etc.) accept emails, put them in a queue, and then later spool them out to the destination. This adds a minute or so of latency.

      A minute? My email server (running Postfix) forwards an email within a couple seconds of receiving it.

      Timestamps from a test I just did:

      email received: 20140816T143458.533249

      email forwarding completed: 20140816T143459.835599

      It's done this way for historical reasons.

      Yup. The historical reasons are that the MTA has to persist the message to storage before it can tell the sender that it has received the message successfully (i.e., 250 OK).

      • by Animats (122034)

        What I'm proposing is to hold up the final 250 OK until the message has been passed on, then report the result of the forwarding as an SMTP status. If immediate forwarding is not possible, return a 421 Service Not Available, so the sender will retry. If the forwarding returns an error status, return that error status. No need for local message storage or bounce messages.

    • by whoever57 (658626)

      That's dead. Today, if the destination mail agent exists, it's probably up and immediately reachable via a fast connection. So a modern mail fowarder should accept the incoming email via SMTP, and then, while holding the incoming connection open, send the email on to the destination mail agent. Any problems are immediately reported to the sender via SMTP status code.

      1. Not quite what you suggest, but close. [mailchannels.com]

      2. Exchange (default setup) accepts all emails to the destination domain and later sends a reje

  • ... when email arrived on the scene.

  • You darn kids, get off my email! Don't step there! I'll call the e-police on ya, if you don't leave that email alone!

  • The main difference is that email is a (suite of) protocol(s), while all those other things are essentially web sites (with a mobile app, and a REST API if you're lucky). Which means that with email, you can deploy a complete implementation yourself, in your own organization or wherever you want, without having to rely on specific 3rd party services or software. This may ultimately make email last longer, because it is truly decentralized. It also means that email can scale up and down effortlessly. You won
  • That's why email has to be stopped. Corporate interests (Facebook, Twitter et al) can't have you relying on a commodity service. You've got to buy their brand and lock your identity to their product.

    Back in the beginning of email, it was sort of this way as well. You were known by your Compuserve or AOL address. Or by the domain name of your ISP. Changing was a PITA if you had a lot of contacts. And then some people got smart, buying their own domain name and setting up redirection to which ever underlying

    • by SeaFox (739806)

      That's why email has to be stopped. Corporate interests (Facebook, Twitter et al) can't have you relying on a commodity service. You've got to buy their brand and lock your identity to their product.

      Exactly. "Latest trend" my ass. I heard this all the time when Facebook was starting to get popular, and I bet it was being crowed in MySpace's time as well.

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