Do We Still Need Email?

Email has long been the principal online communication method. But do we rely on them as much as we used to? Have recent years seen a massive decline in email use?

From the early days of dialup Internet, when CompuServe and AOL ruled, you got two free hours online a month and a handful of free emails. Compare that to today’s standard of flat rate high speed broadband and high quality free email providers all pushing additional features to get you to switch to them.

The Rise of Social Media

Five years ago, email broadcasts and mailing lists were how businesses contacted customers and potential customers, but the growth in social media has opened new, faster, cheaper, easier options.

Customer service departments are turning to Twitter to communicate. I recently used Twitter to contact Royal Mail regarding mail delivery problems, and Sony Ericsson for technical support. No horrible websites to navigate, no support forms to fill in, no people to email and await a response, no telephone support with multiple options and waiting on hold. Both problems were resolved within hours of posting.

Companies are also using Twitter to keep their customers up to date with problems, delays, new products, updates, etc.

The same goes for Facebook. More and more companies are turning to it for customer support, product announcements, and a place for like minded people to discuss their passions for their products.

Low End Mac has been using Twitter and Facebook to promote the website and announce new articles.

It isn’t just email that the new trend in social media is changing; it is making a big impact on other areas of the online world too, but it seems email is the first target affected.

This isn’t just happening in the business sector either. Individuals are less likely to contact friends and family via email due to the progression of social media. You no longer have to keep an address book of your friends email addresses; you simply follow them on Twitter or “friend” them on Facebook – one website where you keep in touch no matter how many times they change their email address or you change your computer or device.

The End of Email Notification?

Modern smartphones have built in Twitter and Facebook apps with direct notification. Until recently, I received email notifications for all social media updates, but now I find that email is lagging behind. My iPhone Facebook app notifies me within seconds of someone messaging me or commenting on my status, with the email notification coming in minutes afterwards.

I find myself deleting the email, as I have already read it via the app or via the badge that pops up on my iPhone screen. I am considering disabling email notifications, something I have never considered before.

Desktop operating systems are having more and more social media integration built right into them. The forthcoming Mac OS X Lion is taking a turn towards the iOS platform, Ubuntu recently added Gwibber right out of the box, and one of Windows 7’s talked about features is its tight social integration.

Less and Less Email

I do the majority of my online contacting between Facebook, Twitter, and Skype. I still use a few email groups – my local Mac user group and a Google group – but if I wasn’t with these or they switched to a Facebook group or Twitter account, I doubt my email would be used for much.

Looking in my inbox right now, I see email receipts for online purchases, messages from eBay, a few conversations from my local Mac user group, and an email from Low End Mac owner Dan Knight. If I turned off Twitter, Facebook, and eBay email notifications, I would see a dramatic reduction in mail.

A year ago, my smartphone checked for new mail every five minutes, but that has been reduced to once an hour. I remember a time when I spent most of my time reading and replying to emails, but now it is tweets.

Has email had its day? Have we moved on to other methods?

I don’t think it will ever die of completely, but it is now sharing with other bigger methods of communication.


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