the Irish for rights

Is email dying?

Jonathan Zittrain (below, left) thinks so (here, republished here):

Jonathan Zittrain, via OII.… But this is a good time to point out something beyond the cat-and-mouse of spam-and-filter: email is dying. … most students today rarely use email, preferring instant messaging, Facebook, Myspace, and other private messaging attached to a proprietary service. … Email is clearly broken, and the various anti-spam tricks designed to extend its life can only go so far. But it’s sad to see the last great shared app eclipsed.

This seems more than a shade apocalyptic to me. It may be true of US high school kids and/or college students, but it is certainly not true – yet? – of Irish university students, to say nothing of their lecturers (some of whom have yet to embrace email, let alone transcend it!). But, that aside, there is an important question here: is email dying under the weight of spam? What do you think?

Update 1 (7 July 2007): Peter Black has also picked up on Zittrain’s post, and agrees with it; an extract:

I agree with this analysis as from my own experience I know that I almost never use email for any personal communication; I have to use email for work, but most of my personal communication occurs through Facebook. The end of email may be upon us much sooner than we all think …

Update 2 (7 July 2007): Via John Naughton I learn (belatedly) of Nora Ephron’s six stages of email (from the New York Times):

    Infatuation (… Wheeeee! I’ve got mail!);
    Clarification (… saves so much time … a whole new way of being with people);
    Confusion (Spam);
    Disenchantment (Help! I’m drowning. I have 112 unanswered e-mail messages. … Now I have 115 unanswered messages. Strike that: 116);
    Accommodation (Yes. No. No :). …);
    Death (Call me.).

It looks like Zittrain and Black have jumped straight from three to six. Maybe somebody should call them?

6 Responses to “Is email dying?”

  1. Mark me down as a “strongly disagree.”

    Email is still, I would argue, the single most used, and useful, application amongst those offered and available to our law students. It’s odd that Zittrain is offering Facebook, MySpace and other such social networking apps/sites as alternatives. To my mind, they are an entirely different medium. All of my students are on Facebook, as am I, but I would not presume to use it as a point of contact. Nor would students use it for educational or professional purposes. Indeed, the dubious content on any given Facebook profile means that any student should be advised to separate that life from their aspiring career in the law. Email maintains that formality and professionalism that social networking sites do not. This is to say nothing of issues of confidentiality on such sites.

    On a related note, if Zittrain’s central thesis is that email is dying because of excessive spam, one wonders just how effective Oxford’s spam filters are. With my university account, I normally receive around one spam message a month. My personal account has never received a spam email. Good email practices are essential – if you aren’t protecting your email address, it’s at your risk.

  2. Ronan says:

    Mark my down as concurring with Martin George.

    As we know the latest and greatest mechanisms for communication and social networking, Bebo, Facebook, myspace etc. are hardly what one would call private or indeed secure. While mail certainly has its issue with regard to forwarding, IPR, AUP [Acceptable Use Policies] and indeed SPAM is remains a mechanism by which certain integrity of address and certainty of end point can be relied upon.

    Recent guidelines I have read have been at pains to point out that company HR departments are Googling potential employees and checking out social sites such as bebo and the likes for informal profiles etc. Guess it cuts the time required for aptitude tests.

    One could write or indeed rant on about Privacy and Freedom of expression in defence of generation Ys [People born after 1982] communication preferences. The reality is that while we have moved on in terms of technological touch, the erosion of privacy has gone or come with it.

    I agree also with the fact that good SPAM filtering is important and I don’t receive much either. Email has revolutionised the way in which companies, networks and people communicate. Peer-to-Peer has its advantages, but like anything I am sure a raft of other issues will arise.


  3. […] las reacciones al artículo de Zittrain no se han hecho esperar. Ellas se pueden reducir a una palabra: “escepticismo”. Creo que […]

  4. David Malone says:

    I receive quite a lot of email – probably about 1000 per day, 150 of which aren’t automatically filed as mailing list, spam or viruses. Over half of the 1000 have been spam over the last few months. Of the 150 that I deal with by hand, maybe 60% are spam. The spam scanning is reasonably good (Spamassassin plus some black lists).

    This is where the rub comes. Though the spam scanning does an OK job, it is expensive in terms of computational resources. ISS in TCD no longer do their own spam scanning – it is contracted out to a third party, because it was too hard to keep mail moving for the number of users involved on the scale of an organisation like TCD.

    Now, the motivation of the spammers is not to stop people reading email – they want people to read their trashy ads and scams. However, they are already sending enough mail that it can be difficult to keep up. If someone actually decided that they wanted to stop people reading email by flooding them with crud, it is quite possible that they could do it using the same sort of resources that the spammers have. Then we might really be in trouble.

  5. Niall says:

    Email is still the backbone of working life, replacing letters and formal phone calls.

    IM and social networking forums are usually proxies for face-to-face informal conversations, hence their popularity among young folk.

    The students that use IM and MySpace for recreation will still choose email over IM in a professional capacity. It’s more manageable.

  6. […] a little while ago, I blogged about Nora Ephron’s six stages of email – from infatuation to death – and about Jonathan […]

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Me in a hatHi there! Thanks for dropping by. I'm Eoin O'Dell, and this is my blog: Cearta.ie - the Irish for rights.

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