Osterman Research Blog

Email is going away?
November 23, 2010, 1:27 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
  • “…is Email itself is a dying form of communication?”  Debatewise.org debate.
  • “Email is probably going away” (Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg at the 2010 Nielsen Consumer 360 Conference)
  • “…e-mail is looking obsolete” (The Death of Email, article in Slate magazine, November 14, 2007)

I respectfully disagree with the notion that email is going away.  Here’s why:

  • Not everything can be said in the 140 characters of Twitter or the 160 characters in a text message.  For example, I sent the final draft of a social media white paper today to its sponsors – my email message to them was 319 characters in length.  My email to our Webinar manager earlier today was 576 characters.  My personal email to a friend sent this afternoon was 317 characters.
  • I communicate with clients and colleagues in Israel, New Zealand, England, Germany and many other countries.  While I tend to work often into the wee hours, most don’t and so can’t use the telephone, Skype or instant messaging to communicate with their contacts located around the world.
  • There are a number of cool collaboration tools out there like Novell Vibe, the (sort of) now-defunct Google Wave, etc.  However, they are not universally deployed and so users of these tools either have to ensure that their contacts are on the same platform, or else use some other means of communication.
  • Many users want to communicate with others, but don’t necessarily need or want to have a real-time conversation with them.  For example, transmitting a purchase order or contract, or simply sending a statement of fact, doesn’t necessarily require any sort of conversation or real-time interaction.  Human nature being what it is, sometimes people just don’t feel like an interaction when they’re transmitting information or documents.
  • Last week, Facebook – the largest social network – launched an email system.

As I see it, the issue is not whether or not email will be replaced – it won’t be.  However, it will be supplemented as new communication tools become more widely used.  For example, I use Twitter to broadcast to my followers interesting news articles, updates on blog posts, announcements of new studies, etc.  For me – and I suspect many others – alternatives like Twitter are supplements to email, not replacements.  For example, five years ago if I came across an interesting article I would not have sent an email to everyone in my email address book letting them know about that content – today, I will sometimes send everyone in my Twitter “address book” an announcement of what I just read.

In short, the “pie” of communications is expanding – one slice getting bigger is not making another slice smaller.

Your thoughts?

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2 Comments so far
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[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Google なう, Tweeter Lover. Tweeter Lover said: Email is going away? « Osterman Research Blog: There are a number of cool collaboration tools out there like Nov… http://bit.ly/hg5FxC […]

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Your conclusions here seem to jive with the more recent research you published indicating that the importance of email was expected to increase in 2011. The full business value for so-called replacement technologies like twitter and Facebook is not fully known. But we can all see why Zuck and company would attempt to wag the dog on this one.

Comment by Kevin Krusiewicz

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