Does email have a future?

Summary:The days of email as a mission-critical application appear to be limited, according to an IDC report. IDC said it is projecting that 97 billion emails will be sent worldwide in 2007 and more than 40 billion of those will be spam.

The days of email as a mission-critical application appear to be limited, according to an IDC report.

IDC said it is projecting that 97 billion emails will be sent worldwide in 2007 and more than 40 billion of those will be spam. That 40 billion spam mark means that junk email will surpass person-to-person email. Overall, email volume in 2007 will approach 5 exabytes, doubling the amount over the past two years.

"Spam volumes are growing faster than expected due to the success of image-based spam in bypassing antispam filters and of email sender identity spoofing in getting higher response rates," said Mark Levitt, program vice president for IDC's Collaborative Computing and Enterprise Workplace research in a statement.

IDC's argument seems to be that spam is hindering the use of email. This trend could be magnified as younger consumers and workers use text messaging and VOIP. IDC's advice to email vendors and customers is to recognize email is just one way to communicate; use multiple antispam applications; and make sure email can be reached through any device.

Fair enough, but the broader question is whether email has a future beyond just a spam vehicle. IDC mentioned the unified communications vision (right) --which every company from Cisco to Microsoft is pushing. But many of these communication suites resemble email with a few bells and whistles.

A few points to ponder:

Will email matter in five years?

Probably. Although young workers may want to text, Twitter and IM, it's a little hard to retain that information in a corporate environment. The real use of email is finding stuff--sent emails, contacts, flames etc. I have a hard time seeing the president of worldwide sales texting a memo to the troops.

What could replace email in a corporate environment?

I don't have any easy answers, but here are few thoughts.

  • Video conferencing. Instead of emailing you could have meetings via conferencing. The issue:  Will these be taped for eternity so you can go back and review?
  • Instant messaging. In many respects, IM has supplanted email for things that are real-time. However, you can see IM becoming almost as useless as email if it is used too much.
  • Wikis. Has some potential and could be a better way to organize communication within corporate walls. Could Wikis usurp one-to-one email. 
  • Texting. Puhleeze. Can you imagine getting an email from your boss that's ridiculously abbreviated like a text message? LOL. Twitter may have some potential—as soon as all of corporate America can be boiled down to 100 or so characters.

Topics: Collaboration

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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