Does email have a future?

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.

TOPICS: Collaboration

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.

Topic: Collaboration

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  • It's easy to blame the spammers...

    and ultimately, they are the ones responsible however they do it because they make money doing it. I would like to put out a lit cigarette in the eye of everyone who ever buys anything as a result of a spam email. Remove the financial incentive of spam and it disappears completely. I'm just wondering how many spam emails people need to act on before they realize that their 'member' isn't growing, their sex-life isn't getting any better, and those stock tips aren't making them any money.
    • spam's not going away anytime soon

      It's like I tell myself lots of times "a brain is not a requirement for a driver's license".

      How many times do we all decry the idiotic behavior of people? You name it: people getting into all kinds of trouble, be it responding spam, getting in over their heads (alcoholism, drug addiction, unwanted pregnancies, etc.). People will keep making bad choices.

      Education will help prevent some people from responding to spam. Bad experiences from responding to spam will deter others, but by then some damage will have been done.

      At some point, the economic damage from spam could begin to approach the damage from illegal drugs. That would tempt some to take the law into their own hands and put out bounties for
      spammers. Already, one big time spammer is known to sleep with a loaded weapon at his bedside.

      It could come to that.
    • So you are saying that...

      getting bigger breasts and a longer penis will not boost my confidence (or something)? C'mon, the spammers have been posting crap for well over a decade, prior to that they were posting crap on BBS's and Usenet. This is hardly going to have any major effect, just as it has not over the past 10 or 20 years! Just use a simple filter to dump anything that is not interesting to you (I recommend routing it to /dev/null).
  • The answer is yes

    If you think back, with voice mail over the course of that last 20 years voice mail boxes filled up with messages from every number of junk calls that voice mail became more trouble than it was worth.

    The fax machine is the same way it came out as a great productivity tool, but as time went on the amount of junk faxes increased and started causing problems.

    Email we all know what has happened just on a larger scale, and already IM is starting to become infiltrated with SPIM as it were.
  • Say it ain't so

    Hmmm -- back in the previous millennium, the "anti-spam fanatics" were prone to saying that "anti-spam is about making e-mail useless for spammers before spammers make e-mail useless."

    That was, of course, derided as over-the-top alarmism.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • Spam is the age old problem of communication

    Communication only comes in a few basic forms such as written or visual or audible communication.

    Spam, in some shape or form has always been a problem for any medium used to mass communicate. From hecklers to mass spam messages sent via email.

    In other words, to this day no human being has come up with a method to mass communicate that precludes abusers from using it.
    • We can, however, reduce the abuse down to a minimum.

      We can, however, reduce the abuse down to a minimum. There are many strategies that can be used at several levels to ensure spam is minimal.

      I've been able to reduce my own spam to less than one a day.
  • Email will Evolve

    Its true- as spam increases to a number that starts clouding the few really important emails, the threat and opportunity to evolve Email will be good. Though I must say that my yahoo (paid) and google spam filters are doing okay so far, despite me getting a dozen plus newsletters daily. Still, the evolution of email is likely, in a way that the trusted senders will add a code (say xyz99) along with their emails, and the receipient will have a list of such accepted members...effectively breaking the inbox into two or more parts: one is trusted (core business), two is new comers (could be opportunities or spam, and filters can applied to further categorize). So, the workload of the receipient will be a bit higher, but the amount of spam read will be it should even out.
    • Spam control via message filters

      I get about 3000 emails a day, no problem, I use the message
      filters in my email program, trusted senders in one bucket,
      then possible benefit in another bucket and outright spam
      into instant delete. This way I can scan down the list and
      see clearly what needs my attention and what needs deleted.

      Thus 3000 emails is reduced to about 20.

      A good anti-virus and a good spyware remover
      and I seldom have any problems at all.
      • agree

        I'm a big fan of Gmail. Google's filters keep 99% of spam from reaching me with almost no false-negatives. Yeah a few things slip through, but no-one's perfect. Plus, it keeps malware from ever reaching my hard drive. Recommended!
  • Restrain the morons. Internet kindergarten... yeah... that's it!

    The boneheads that respond to spam are to blame really. They create the market that keeps the scumbag spammers in business.

    Perhaps all ISP's should require all email users to pass a basic competency test to teach them how to be good netizens. Make them prove that they know the difference between spam and legitimate email. Until they pass, they will be required to use an email whitelist so they won't have a chance to respond to spam.
  • Not so fast - Bayesian isn't the only anti-spam solution

    Not so fast - images only get around one type of classification, and that's Bayesian filtering, since Bayesian relies mostly on words.

    But that does [b]not[/b] mean that other anti-spam technologies don't exist.

    IP Blacklists, electronic signatures, and sender policy framework all work together to help in the fight against spam, and "image spam" is useless against these strategies. Electronic signatures and SPF make spoofing a lot harder as well.
  • Windows is the target

    often because its better sense to target the MOST people you can. Thats 80 kazillion windows users, 3 mac users.

    Regardless, when I open my gmail account on a windows IE, or any other browser, or on any computer, be it mac or PC, the same spam sits in my account...strange that its windows fault.
  • Email's Future has a Gravestone

    There are alternatives available for innovators to hit.
  • Yes, more spam than legit., but...

    Reading between the lines of IDC's press release, it seems to me that we're comparing apples with oranges. I think Mark is including the number of legitimate messages that stay inside an organization.

    This is typically a whole lot more than the amount that comes in from outside. It might easily double the number of messages a user receives.

    More at