What Trumps Email?

Eventually every technology is trumped by something new and better. And I feel that email is ready to be trumped. But by what?

We all know the limitations of email. It has no native permissioning system so its susceptible to spam and near-spam. Email has become a burden to so many people that more and more are seeking an alternative.

And there are no shortage of alternatives; text messaging, instant messaging, and site messaging for one to one messaging. And blogging, twitttering, and social networking for one to many messaging.

I have heard from readers that email is considered ‘serious messaging’ and worthy of a reply before less serious activities like blogging, twittering, and social networking.

I reject that notion because I cannot reply to every email I get but I can alert whomever is interested via a blog post or twitter message that I’ll be in San Jose for the next two days. That’s going to lead to four or five impromptu meetings, several of which are with people who have found it impossible to reach me via email.

I find myself text messaging more and more every day. It has replaced email as the dominant form of communication in my family. We all carry phones with us and texting gets an immediate or near immediate response while an email sits in my daughter’s AOL account along with dozens of spam emails she has no desire to wade through.

I’ve said it before on this blog. Spam has ruined email for the youth generation. They may adopt email at some point when they reach the workforce, but it will never be the messaging system of choice for them.

Site messaging (particularly in social networks) is incredibly popular among the younger crowd. The permissioning system is their social network and so they value the messages they get. They’ve been filtered. There’s no porn spam on facebook.

Instant messaging remains a popular option and at times its useful. But real time communication has its limits. It demands your attention and I think anything that demands permanent attention is suboptimal in this technology driven partial attention world we live in.

Blogging is a lot like social networking but without the permissioning filter of the social network. It’s useful and as many readers have found, one of the best ways to reach me is via a well articulated comment on this blog. Those rarely go unanswered. Funny enough the messaging system I prefer for those replies is email.

Email still has some big advantages. It does not demand real time attention. You can embed attachments and rich graphics in email. You can write long messages (although I would argue the 140 charachter limit of texting is an advantage as much as a disadvantage).

Maybe no single technology trumps email. Maybe its a collection of technolgies like texting, site messaging, and twittering that together provide a better alternative.

Will our lives be better without email? Hard to say. My life is so much richer because I can ‘touch’ hundreds of people a day via internet messaging (ie email). But it’s also a burden. No pain, no gain I suppose. But I am sure hoping whatever trumps email allows me to touch even more people with less pain. And I see hopeful signs that might just be happening.