Email is the direct descendant of the letter, and to a generation who have grown up having never written a letter, email seems like a rather quaint way to communicate.
o anyone who works in an office or who grew up in the pre-internet years, email is an essential tool. It’s how we communicate with coworkers, friends, and family members. But to an increasing number of people in the tech world, and to many in the so-called “millennial” generation, email is as old-fashioned and irrelevant as, well, writing and mailing a letter.
In 2011, Thierry Breton, CEO of Atos, issued a memo banning email. Last year, Robert Corrao, COO of LA-based professional services company LAC Group, announced he was planning to banish email from his company as well. And among young people, email use has declined by 34% among people age 18-24, according to analytics company comScore.
It’s not difficult to understand why young people are turning away from email. With so many other ways to communicate—on social media sites, via Twitter, or through instant messaging and texting—email might be a bit unnecessary. Not to mention that email is the direct descendant of the letter, and to a generation who have grown up having never written a letter, email seems like a rather quaint way to communicate, with its fully spelled-out words and its complete sentences.
The reason for businesses ditching email are less apparent, however. But the common complaint from those business owners who are looking to go email-less is the same: it’s too time-consuming. Corrao was the focus of an article in MacWorld magazine that urged companies to consider alternatives to email. Corrao told MacWorld that he has to wade through around 500 emails a day.
As an alternative to email, many companies are building internal social networks to give their employees a simpler way to communicate, using software solutions like Yammer (which was recently acquired by Microsoft) or Jive.
Although the majority of companies continue to use email, one of its chief benefits is, in some cases, becoming an argument for companies to ditch it: the ability to create a virtual paper trail.
This is great for ensuring that messages are received and read, but some companies are finding that they don’t want anyone knowing whether or not certain messages were read by certain people. Email use was discouraged among executives at Standard & Poor’s during the market crisis of 2007, and archived emails played a crucial role in uncovering Rupert Murdoch’s phone-hacking scandal last year.
For now, email seems too firmly entrenched in most people’s lives and work to be in any danger of extinction, but as anyone at the U.S. Postal Service will probably tell you, it’s surprising how quickly things can change.