Email Est Mort, Vive Le Email

I’ve been pondering the longevity of email for the past few years, wondering whether it’s time was numbered due to the ease and rise of messaging and social networks. And I’m certainly not the only one that’s considered this, there’s been plenty of opinions and debates about this online. Mark Zuckerberg said email was dead a few weeks ago (oh really, well you try signing up for Facebook without an email address, then let me know how you get on), plus on monday the CEO of Atos put a ban on email within his organisation stating employees should all be using social networks and SMS instead! (yeah that’s gonna work isn’t it… the staff will love having their work colleagues on their social networks!)

But think about this, email and messages in whatever format remains, but the days for having an “email address” are numbered! mmm, now that’s an interesting idea isn’t it.

But that won’t be until the various telephone, email services and social networks agree an open standard for messages and voice to flow freely and seamlessly between them, and that is unlikely to happen without coercion. The reason email has survived so long and is so prevalent is the same reason phone calls and SMS have proved so effective and robust, because they rely on open standards that anyone can use without restriction or more importantly, additional licensing costs.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could compose a message and send it, without worrying how the recipients have chosen to receive it, be it on their mobile as SMS, on a social network, as email, or whatever else they’ve decided upon.

Apple are making moves into this area, although very slowly, I write a text message on my iPhone, as I would any SMS, to a friend and it arrives on their iOS device, but it may have been routed to them as data (not an SMS), so via email servers but displays in their Messages app as an SMS.

Doesn’t sound that amazing at first, mainly because Apple have made it so effortless, but when you really think about it, the underlying principle is in fact ground-breaking. I send an SMS, and the recipient still receives it, even if they’re not on a telephone network or have reception (as long as they have internet connectivity)

But let’s take this one small step further, what if you had a single ID (not separate email addresses, mobile, landline, Skype, messaging, Facebook, twitter etc), a single way for people to contact you regardless whether the contact was voice, text, image, email, instant-message etc. How cool would that be? (of course you could still have a separate one for personal and home).

You give someone your unique ID (probably numbers 0-9 only, so it can be input using a phone), then they call, SMS, email, message you and you receive it regardless of the device you’re using, if you preferred you could split the incoming messages so voice goes to your mobile/landline/desktop/tablet/TV, SMS and messages to your messaging app, email to your email app… whatever you want, it’s your choice, the sender doesn’t need to know, it makes no difference to them… it just works.

So how cool would it be to have a single ID… mmmm, now where have I heard that idea mentioned before ;)