With so many ways to communicate today (including messaging apps, texting, and social media), you might think that email is getting pushed aside. However, people are still reading, sending, and receiving hundreds of emails per week both at work and at home. In fact, our email use is actually increasing as it evolves to find new ways to make our lives easier.
One reason for this is that many “email killer” apps like Slack still rely on email to function. For instance, users still get email notifications for new messages and mentions. Social media and file sharing platforms often require an email to create an account, or at least one must be added to the profile as a place to send password reset links and other important correspondence.
While some say that email is a workplace distraction, others believe that it is less disruptive to productivity than alternatives like messaging apps. John Rae-Grant, lead product manager for Gmail, points out that email is “asynchronous. If you want to just inform someone about something, you send them an email with the expectation that they’ll get to it, just not necessarily right away.”
Email has also stuck around because it has changed to meet our modern needs. Emails are no longer just electronic letters, but contain photos, videos, and other media. Platforms have also added tools that work in tandem with email messaging to provide a full picture of our day, from to-do lists to reminders to event calendars. As we move toward a paperless world, many people rely on their inboxes to serve double duty as filing cabinets, full of important documentation and communication all in one place.
Accessibility and reliability are among email’s strongest virtues. It’s free and available to anyone with an internet connection. Even better, there are so many email platforms that no one company has a monopoly over the technology. Jonathan Levine, CTO at Intermedia, also notes that “if Slack or Dropbox went out of business tomorrow, what would happen to the records residing in that system? Open email standards like SMTP, and the robust email marketplace, provides assurance that makes email a safe bet for years to come.”
Email’s doubters cite security and privacy problems as one reason to move away from it. Many platforms simply aren’t designed to provide the level of data security that we now require. Some tech innovators are working to change that, though. Vancouver’s Thierry LeVasseur has developed over 150 web assets, including many patents, related to email security. These include secure email transmission and tracking, ways to view details about messages before opening them, and advanced “for your eyes only” features.
With thousands of emails in your inbox, it’s easy to feel fatigue, especially if a large percentage of those are junk. And while messaging apps are great for asking a colleague a quick question, email remains a convenient and useful communication method both in the workplace and in our personal lives. You can send it out quickly and easily add attachments, making it thorough and fast, yet less intrusive than a face-to-face meeting or phone call. If email can manage to keep evolving to meet our needs, it looks like it’s here to stay.