Email is so 90s.
Seriously, there’s been nothing genuinely exciting to see in my inbox, probably since the 90s. And I would’ve been about 1 then.
The only regular content I receive these days are newsletters, instructions from my boss, and correspondence with clients for my graphic design business. Oh, and receipts from Uber.
In fact, most of this content I rarely see, because my Outlook app filters it out.
With most of my friends having iPhones and Mac computers, iMessage has become my most used form of contact, even with people I work with. (Facebook Messenger a close second). And services like Slack, and Flowdock have created such appropriate alternatives to emailing that the importance of it as a form of communication has never been more in question.
So what would happen if it were to just die. Seriously, what if we just decided, that that’s it. Email is done. What’s the worst that could happen?
I mean, it’s not like I’m gonna miss the thousand email invites to events pushed through MeetUp. (Yes, I’ve tried to unsubscribe but somehow those invites keep resurfacing). I would no longer get alerts that “people” have been viewing my LinkedIn profile.
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Google+ would stop suggesting random Pages I “might like”. (How about I suggest something they’d like called? It’s called “Being Facebook”).
I’d stop getting pinged by services, whose accounts I lost the passwords to years ago. I wouldn’t have to hear about “special offers” from Fasttix. Repins from Pinterest. And passive aggressive calls to action from Tumblr. “Hey F$*khead. Check out your dashboard”.
Seriously, more than anything, my inbox is a wasteland of one-minute-stands. Short in the moment decisions to sign up to services for momentary gain, but lifelong annoyance. And I have no doubt I’m not the only one.
I won’t be sad to see email go from the perspective of a user. But as a content creator and entrepreneur, I can see the risk it presents.
As irrelevant as email has become, there are thousands of publications, podcasts and legitimate subscription services who still build enormous traction through sharing their contact in newsletter form.
I know Monocle Magazine, Bloomberg Business, Medium, the Serial podcast and many more services, rely on this format to notify fans they have new content up. They offer a curated list of what I should read, hear, or watch, the equivalent of receiving a magazine on my doorstep, an experience I actually like.
However for every service that respects me as a user, there are ten services that abuse the opportunity to shoot content directly into my inbox, and this has ruined the email experience for me.
Whether it’s because they send things out too often, or the content is sub-par, the sentiment of being “burned” too many times inescapably fills my interaction with my inbox.
Yet, while most functions of emailing can be replicated by other apps, it would be disappointing to see it go from the perspective of it being the last truly formal way of connecting with people. Companies like Microsoft and Gmail are trying to save email from irrelevance with their Outlook and Inbox apps, respectively, by attempting to prioritise quality content rather than junk. They’re raising the bar of what should be seen, and using filters to actively respect the end user, and if successful, it could carve out a new niche for email. A return to the fundamental qualities that made emails intimate, personal and effective.
Let the work colleagues play in Slack and Flowdock. Let friends and family contact you through iMessage and Facebook Messenger. Let social media bare the brunt of spammy promotions and way too often posting. But let’s remember to leave a space for focused communication.
There is a place for the formality of curated content, personal letters, and professional correspondence that other services don’t provide well right now.
So until there’s a shiny new way to do it all, I’m leaving my junk pile to grow.