Reflections on “Future Emails” – They Aren’t Going Anywhere!

Your Future Emails Aren’t Going Anywhere! Here in the summer heat I have read quite a few blog posts about the future of emails, and a lot of people seems to be able to put it into the grave already next year. I felt like I wanted to come with my contribution as well about […]

Published: 7/15/2015 by Bjarne Mess

Your Future Emails Aren’t Going Anywhere!

Here in the summer heat I have read quite a few blog posts about the future of emails, and a lot of people seems to be able to put it into the grave already next year. I felt like I wanted to come with my contribution as well about future emails. In my opinion they aren’t going anyway – on the contrary!

And I’m not just saying that because we’re in the business of email signature management. If you think about the complaints people most often prescribe to email, they actually have little to do with email itself, and everything to do with how email is used. And that is because email is merely a system of communication. And it happens to be a pretty damn good one at that. Future emails will still be emails if I may say so.

It’s about Time to Start Embracing Emails here in 2015

Think about it. Emails allow you to send messages of varying length and complexity – from incredibly short to quite robust – along with various forms of media, to multiple recipients at once, quickly, painlessly, and for free (or at least others are paying for them, right 🙂 ). Phones don’t let you do that. Handwritten correspondence doesn’t let you do that. Text messages and instant messaging doesn’t let you do that and not whatsapp or other methods or apps. Rest assured, if someone proclaims to have the solution to email, the odds are good it will simply be email by another name. That is, some form of written digital communication that enables attachments and multiple recipients.

In fact, there are a whole slew of project management applications that have set out to replace email in the workplace – Asana and Basecamp are two that come to mind immediately. But here’s the thing: not only are these platforms mostly the same as a traditional email system – you can send and receive messages to multiple parties simultaneously, along with any relevant attachments – they’re not as good. With email, the process is simple. You receive an email. You respond or discard the email. That’s it. That’s the entire cycle. Project management system or not. Even systems claiming that emails will die now, add to the number of emails in your inbox..

Playing “Telephone” In a Digital World

When communicating with an application like Basecamp or Asana, the process is much more complicated. It goes something like this:

  1. You receive a message alerting you to the fact that there’s a message within the application requiring your attention. In other words, you receive an email (which means in order to use a system like Asana, you must first have an email address. Not much of a replacement, is it?).
  2. Now you have two choices – you can respond or you can click on the topic within the email, which will direct you to the application itself.
  3. There, you’ll likely be prompted to log in, at which point you’ll have to navigate through the application’s dashboard or admin panel to find the applicable topic or task in question.
  4. Now you have more options. Do you check it off as being closed? Do you reassign it to somebody else? Do you ignore it and pretend it doesn’t apply to you? Do you leave a follow-up comment and reassign it? Or do you leave a follow-up comment but leave it assigned in your name?

As you can see, all of the problems, shortcomings, and flaws that exist with email also exist with these so-called email solutions. Except they’re compounded, because the user interface and experience is much more cumbersome. It’s like that old game of telephone. By the time the message gets from one person to the next, you wonder why any of the middlemen were involved in the first place.

You still need an email to sign up for LinkedIn, Facebook , Twitter, Instagram and what do I know. And Xink. No email, no sign-up, no woman no cry. It’s as simple as that. Sure I use whatsapp more now but it is for another type of messaging, which I would never have used an email for anyways, just to add an example.

Emails in 1992 and 23 years later – basically still the same

I was sending the first emails ever when I studied in Copenhagen University in 1992.  I believe I sent my first email on Emacs for Unix in 1992 and I still remember my first email address was mess@math.ku.dk. It was extremely easy and fast to send and receive emails then, and just using the text editor and ‘vi’ commands made it a super easy task. In fact I believe that it was much easier then than now.

The thing is we’re communicating now about the exact same things when it comes to the core of it. It is about results, actions to take, responses to get and getting the job done with an easy and smooth communication method. Doesn’t matter much if it was emacs or Outlook 2016 for Mac, the main message is the same. It is not going to change the next many years.

Your Future Emails Will Still Be Email Messages

The only thing that has changed is that emails have turned into a significant branding and marketing machine now, which was not the case earlier on. In fact back then I even added my own email signature! I saved my details in a document I edited with ‘vi’ and copied in my name and address to the Faculty. That was pretty neat!

So reflecting about future emails and how they are going to look in the future, well yes it will change because we will use different programs to read and reply to them, but the core message is the same. They will remain in the form and shape they have now. Maybe emails will be disrupted one day.. lets’ see!