Email has been around for nearly fifty years, the first email being sent in 1971. The end of email was first predicted in 1989. Since then people have been predicting its demise as a means of communicating, latterly by being killed-off by social media. In this article we look at its popularity, whether there are any real alternatives, and why we still choose to use it.
Well, to continue the tradition of misquoting the words of Mark Twain….. email’s death certainly doesn’t appear to be likely anytime soon. On the contrary, in its “Email Statistics Report 2019-2023” the Radicati Group predicted steady growth for email traffic at over 4% per annum, exceeding 347 billion per day in 2023, with the number of users expected to increase by 3% annually, to exceed 4.3 billion by the end of 2023.
We can be confident email will be around for a very long time yet.
What about the alternatives?
Email is certainly not the only game in town. You will have heard the names Skype, Slack, Yammer, and about instant messaging (WhatsApp, Messenger etc), and still be familiar with that quaint alternative: meeting up, face-to-face.
Slack describes itself as “team communication for the 21st Century” and that highlights the difference to email – without doubt, it is good for colleague-to-colleague conversations and messaging groups of people, but will it replace email?
Importantly, Slack’s co-founder Stewart Butterfield is widely quoted as saying
You might be surprised to hear that what Slack does has been around since 1988, when it started with Internet Relay Chat (IRC). In the 20 odd years that it was being widely used it never outdid email. IRC features are surprisingly similar to Slack’s, although, of course, Slack has done an great job modernising the user interface, making it a lot more sophisticated than it was!
Yammer markets itself as an enterprise social network, again aimed at the enterprise to allow users to work in groups. Instant messaging (IM) apps such as WhatsApp are a great alternative for talking to colleagues without the formality of emails. However, for them to work, individuals need to use the same app, which is very different to emails which can be handled by whatever email management software suits you best.
Other drawbacks when using instant messaging in the workplace include the possibility of immediate miscommunication – it’s an easy way to send the wrong message within a very short time-span, aggravated by the use of abbreviations common to this method of communicating. Chat tools also create a significant amount of “noise” – too many groups, too many topics and too many comments have lead to some employees wanting to opt out in order to focus better on their tasks in hand. Chat is a great tool for one on one conversations, or those in a small group, but for sharing company wide information, documents, etc. email or an intranet are probably better options.
Team communication is however most definitely still available to those using email. Collaborative software, such as our own CompassAir, is the key to unlocking productivity and efficiency. Such software enables the sharing, processing and management of data, documents and files between team members. It makes communication transparent, allows teams to work together on joint projects and share resources. For a more detailed insight see our article on the benefits of using such software.
When it comes to communicating with other organisations any alternative to email is hard to find.
So why do we prefer emails?
Email is universal (nearly everyone has an email address), it is convenient (they can be sent without the need to know where the recipient is or if they are online, from all kinds of devices), and emails generate automatically an electronic record of our interactions with the other parties.
Email communication is what is known as “asynchronous”. In other words, the relay of information is instantaneous – the sender and the recipient do not need to be online at the same time to communicate. Emails land in your inbox and stay there until you are ready to deal with them. What’s more, sending them buys you time –an immediate response is the exception, leaving you time to get on with other tasks.
Email management software acts like an online filing cabinet for all our important documents and messages, always available on your phone or your desk, instantly searchable – reports, correspondence, to do lists – all kinds of information, you name it! GDPR – the General Data Protection Regulation – was implemented on the 25 May 2018. This important EU regulation aims to improve privacy and give greater control over personal information and how it is used – it feels like it’s giving that filing cabinet a clear out, removing all the unwanted messages, uncluttering the drawers.
Email is our calling card, our identification. Very often it’s a statement of our name and who we work for. We also use it like a passport to log in to the things we use on a daily basis, retail, banking, social networks. Not having an email address often excludes us from participating online – to successfully sign up for services online nearly always requires both a name and an email address. Like any passport, your credentials need to be kept safe. Unfortunately phishing and such like are increasingly being used by scammers. For an insight into the methods being used and how to protect yourself see our article on email scams.
Email is free to use, there are no stamps to buy or telephone calls to pay.
Email is also mobile – in their 2017 Email Use Report, Adobe observed that, whilst 27% of work emails were checked using a smartphone, for personal emails the rate was 48% and rising, a significant increase when compared to 2016.
Not surprisingly, for young people smartphones are the most popular device for checking emails, both work and personal.
From the same survey, email was still the primary communication tool in companies, even amongst younger people and significantly higher than instant messaging platforms, such as Slack. Whilst instant messaging is increasingly popular in the workplace it still falls well behind email.
Adobe email usage survey 2019
Each year since 2015, Adobe have conducted a survey into the email habits of US citizens who work in office/management roles and who own smartphones, the data representative of age and gender proportions found in the general population.
In the 2019 survey (conducted over late July, early August 2019) it was found that, although down compared to 2016, the average employee spends almost three and a half hours checking their work email each weekday, with only 24% never checking them outside of normal work hours.
An interesting observation from the 2018 survey was that in each of the last three years email was the preferred method of workplace communication, whereas in 2018 it actually ranked equally with face to face conversations:
To summarise: email remains the go-to way of communicating with people outside of your organisation, a critical way for businesses to communicate with each other. For communicating with people you do not know there is almost no alternative. Far from being replaced, its use is growing and will do so for many years to come.
A few words about CompassAir
Creating solutions for the global maritime sector, CompassAir develops state of the art messaging and business application software designed to maximise ROI. Our software is used across the sector, including by Sale and Purchase brokers (S&P/SnP), Chartering brokers, Owners, Managers and Operators.
Through its shipping and shipbroking clients, ranging from recognised World leaders through to the smallest, most dynamic independent companies, CompassAir has a significant presence in the major maritime centres throughout Europe, the US and Asia.
Our flagship solution is designed to simplify collaboration for teams within and across continents, allowing access to group mailboxes at astounding speed using tools that remove the stress from handling thousands of emails a day. It can be cloud based or on premise. To find out more, contact us via [email protected]. If you are new to shipping, or just want to find out more about this exciting and challenging sector, the CompassAir Shipping Guide might prove to be an interesting read.