What is happening to email?

Something strange is happening to the way I use email.

Last week I sent someone a long, information-packed email that they had been expecting. I immediately followed this up with a direct message on Twitter letting them know that I had just sent the email.

Later on that evening I received a reply on Twitter thanking me for the information. There was no email reply.

Look at this another way. I have three email accounts that I use regularly: my work account, the Engine Room's own account, and a personal account I've held for about a decade. I now check the last of these around once a week, down from every day a few years back.

If I want to send a quick, casual message, I'll use Twitter; if I want to share a link, I'll use Delicious; if I want to pose an open question to some work colleagues, I'll use Yammer; if it's work-related but not pressing, I'll use LinkedIn; and so on. Email's role is becoming much more niche.

And that's strange, because email is ubiquitous: pretty much everyone who has uses the internet has an email address. Not everyone uses Twitter, or Delicious, or Google Wave, or any of these other fun forms of communication.



Mantolwen said...

I find that I just use Google for most things. Google's iGoogle home page means I can check my email, RSS feed, calendar, news, weather without having to go directly into the programs. It's incredibly useful. I use Facebook if I want to send someone a quick message, and to let people know how I am, and I gave up on Twitter when I was in hospital for two weeks last summer. But most of the time I use email, because if there's an option between that and phoning, I will email every time.

Daga Daga Bush said...

I'd agree that email is becoming less ubiquitous. Maybe it's the sense that people don't check it very often, or you might not have the right email address, or simply the way in which most people are so inundated with spam that half their genuine emails get filtered into junk, but I use it as a last resort for communicating with friends.

If I need to get hold of someone, I send them a message on Facebook or a text message via my mobile. Both of these also have the advantage that a short one-line message doesn't seem rude, whereas email almost seems to demand a more formal approach. It's more akin to writing a letter, or at least seems so to me.

One thing that continues to irritate me about email is that it's virtually useless for sending files these days. It should be a convenient way to send photos or other items around, but file sizes have increased to such an extent that the arbitrary file size restrictions imposed by most ISPs actually make email impossible to use for this purpose. So that's another factor driving people away from email towards file sharing sites and the like.

JD (The Engine Room) said...

I'm not a fan of Facebook, but I've just signed up for a new account for work purposes. The rest of the country wants to check Facebook at work but can't; I don't particularly want to, but have to.

My work email account has a 70Mb limit, so a few large attachments can pretty much fill it up. There is the option to archive old material, but even with that I seem to spend more time deleting emails than reading or writing them.