Five reasons why email will never die

Email is still the de facto standard for communication for hundreds of millions of people. But that's not the only reason the technology will never go away.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Gmail email client.
Jack Wallen/ZDNET

My choice of communication technology looks like this:

  1. Phone calls for family and closest friends
  2. Emails for business and secondary members of my circle
  3. Chat for everyone else

That approach might make me seem like a dinosaur but I like the personal connection of a phone call. And when a call isn't an option, email is a close second. With email, I can communicate on my terms and know the sender won't have any problem reading my correspondence. Emails have few limitations, have been around since the earliest days of computers, and will remain in play until long after I've sloughed off this mortal coil.

Also: How to encrypt your email (and why you should)

If you aren't buying what I'm saying, let me see if I can convince you why email will always be a part of the equation.

1. The long-term archive

One of the most frustrating aspects of chat-based communications is locating information. I've spent far more time than I'd like to remember doomscrolling through a chat thread to find a URL for something I need. It's frustrating. You can't search those threads or organize them. You have to live with the limitations -- and that approach will never suit my needs. 

Also: How to use AI to compose email in BlueMail

With email, I can organize, archive, search, and know that those communications will always be in my inbox (or the hierarchy of folders I use) to give me quick access to information -- no doomscrolling required. For one IMAP account, I have archives that date back 10 years. Imagine having to search a chat thread dating back that far.

2. The fact it's everywhere

Email isn't just relegated to social circles -- it's everywhere, including businesses, non-profits, families, friends, acquaintances, clients, customers, and across the globe. You can use email to communicate with support staff, your neighbor, a client, someone on the other side of the world, and more. There are over 7.9 billion email accounts worldwide (as of 2023), according to Vennage.

Email is used for mailing lists (I have one as an author), product updates, news and notifications, and just about everything else. Because of its ubiquity, email is not going anywhere soon. Can you imagine if, all of a sudden, email went away? Millions of people would find themselves at a loss and would have to turn to social media to communicate (ack!).

3. The long and short of it

One of my favorite aspects of email is that it can be as long or as short as needed to communicate an idea, thought, or feeling. I can send a single-word email or a novella-length narrative and it would make it to the recipient without a problem. When I send wordy emails, I know the recipient can take it all in however they want. Emails can be read from a desktop, an app, a client, or the web. They can be printed out, converted to a PDF, turned into a to-do list, or just about anything you need. 

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It doesn't matter how long an email is. As long as the recipient is willing to put the time into reading it, they can do so with ease. I've had to, on several occasions, read lengthy chats. As I go through the extended paragraphs, the sender sends me something else, automatically shifting the thread so the new message is right in front. I then scroll back up, find where I was in the thread, and continue reading. Rinse, wash, repeat. No, thank you.

4. The lack of "likes"

The nice thing about email is that it doesn't care about algorithms, acceptance, likes, dislikes, replies, interactions, or any of the things that drive social media. Email is all about one thing -- communication. That lack of likes is comforting. I don't have to worry that my email will go unnoticed because the court of public opinion has deemed it unworthy. Instead, that email will remain in the recipient's inbox until they choose to read it. Every email arrives in my inbox the same way. And unless I mark something as important, all emails are equal.

5. The flexibility

An email can sit in my inbox for days without getting read. However, I can click a button to view only unread messages and the email is available. Or, I can read an email and reply at my leisure. Unless an email has an embargo or someone requests timely information, there's no rush and no worry that an email will vanish in a sea of people living their best lives. I can even snooze emails, so they pop up later to insist I give them their attention. Chats, meanwhile, are ruled by time and don't offer the same flexibility.

Also: This is the Linux email client I've been hoping for

The above list doesn't mention that businesses use and depend on email. That reason alone ensures email's prominence. We can all agree email isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

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