Will email as we know it be dead by 2020?
That all depends on what we mean by “as we know it”.
In recent years the world has been using email incorrectly; by definition, it is Electronic Mail rather than Electronic Messaging, heck even ‘cc’ harks back to the paper terminology, imagine ‘cc-ing’ someone into a conversation. Back in the day of CompuServe et al email would be used as a revolutionary, sliced-bread, electronic alternative to snailmail. Telnet was as an alternative to long-distance telephone calls and BBS used for collaborative communities and forums. The world was epic; the best part of my Uni days was being a sysop on ISCA BBS and trying to become one on The Well!
In the past 5 years, we have seen a plethora of products that have made (or attempted to make) electronic messaging and collaboration easier and smarter, thus ‘better’. This had previously been realised through the misuse of email as an instant communication medium and electronic soapbox due to a lack of suitable products (use of MSN / AOL / Yahoo Messenger was banned in the workplace, apart from in their corporate parentage), platforms were closed and propriety (Trillian becomes an outlaw), and alternatives were just plain crap (who really liked using SharePoint or Domino?).
The new landscape of collaboration platforms, workplace tools, IM etc ad nauseam, has been driven by dramatic increases in internet penetration and adoption leading to mass changes in human behaviour and entrepreneurial instinct to create these platforms and tools. The convergence of APIs, commodity technology and the world wanting all of this ‘free’ became a key enabler. The world just lapped them all up but still used email for messaging alongside the new players in one big nebulous mess of electronic communications.
So, will email as we know it really be dead by 2020?
Sure, we will stop using it as a means of instant messaging, sharing cat lols and arranging nights out. All of the messaging and collaboration tools we see today will try to eliminate email completely, but we will still see email being used beyond 2020 for its original core purpose as an alternative to snailmail by those businesses that mandate it, and by society in an almost nostalgic way. The toddlers of today certainly won’t be educated on the use of email as a communication medium; in the same way as today the term WIMP is completely alien to Millennials and Centennials have zero mouse-dexterity ™, the new youth will almost retort “email? electronic mail? mail? electronic? am I hearing you right?” in an almost Peter Kay garlic bread fashion.
For me, the real magic right here right now, comes when we see applications such as Front (which is 100X valuation in the past 12 months). Front brings all the communications from all channels such as email, IM, snaps, social etc together in one place to create a true data-information-knowledge-wisdom chain that can be deployed for personal and business use. Apply AI to that, and the world becomes epic once again.
The deeper question then becomes more “how will personal and business communications as we know it today change by 2020?”. Companies such as Front have, correctly, started there