Why email will outlast messaging apps

The only digital communication method that plays nice with others

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

m old enough to remember when you had to pay for an email account. It was that valuable. I used my real name and found a provider that gave me free access, thanks Juno! And suddenly I was spreading the good word.

No, you didn’t need to create an account with my email provider. You gave your email like you gave your phone number. Except I could check your messages anytime with email — I didn’t have to be at mailbox or sitting next to the telephone.

Email disrupted

Because the next best alternative was mail. And forget about fax — only businesses used it and they charged a dollar a page (some places still do!). First class mail, to be sure, never died, but email really crippled the postal sevice. But it’s now the domain of package delivery, magazines, and junk mail.

Email fought and won the spam wars

Ads are killing blogs. Robocallers are overwhelming cell phones. And Apple has ruined SMS texting by making iMessage too good.

We thought that’s where email was going to end up too. There was a point in time where our inboxes were getting too full of spam and junk mail. Yes, we get a lot of bad emails, but spam filters won that war.

We had limits on the messages we could keep. We could only check it on a desktop with a dedicated client. Then web-based, then mobile email happened. Google kicked the door open to gigabyte email. And now nothing gets done without an email. Your email is your identity. Sorry Slack.

Real-time audio/video are intrusive

We thought maybe your cell phone number would change that. And there is work being done to grab our attention with our cell phones. But an unscheduled phone call to your cell? That’s reserved for an emergency, or someone who is bothering you — a telemarketer, or a doctor office that hasn’t figured out how to send a text.

Instant texting/messaging is so platform dependent

Yes, texting is big. But what happens when you stop paying your phone bill? You lose your cell phone number. And with it, your Whatsapp account. Facebook tried to compete with email, setting up their own email service, then messaging service. But these social messaging services are little more than ICQ and AOL instant messaging. We know what happened to those services when people moved on.

The reason email works so well is because its a digital address you create for yourself. Yes, it may be tied to an ISP or a tech giant like Microsoft or Google. And your email address might change. But it’s the closest thing we have to digital DNA.

Maybe we’ll find a new way to new non-proprietary method to send information to people that can be stored for review later. But I haven’t heard of it. The early days of the world wide web worked so well because there was a push to get everyone to work together.

But now everyone is working on niches and capturing and keeping people in moats. These castles are great for attracting startup capital, but it won’t help the end user. And that is why we keep using email.

Reader, commenter, and writer. Informed by my experiences as a parent, entrepreneur, and attorney.

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