Is it Time for Email to Go Away?


Has email lived its useful life? Recently articles* about new products such as Slack and Facebook at Work highlight the emerging second generation of social business applications and ponder their usefulness. Will they replace old guard products like email, or create a new space? Even IBM is getting into the game. Their offering, Verse, was touted as “a new way to work” in recent TV commercials that aired during the NFL divisional championship football games.

My opinion? Who knows what will happen. I recall writing about this very topic about 10 years ago—clearly, “if” and “when” are difficult questions to answer.

Email’s inherent problems are many:

  • It grabs our attention, not necessarily in a good way. With a LIFO approach, each new message pops up on our screen and announces itself. It interrupts our thought process and begs for an immediate response.
  • It’s not easy to manage. Questions abound. What do I need to store in folders for future retrieval? What needs to be followed up on? What responses am I waiting on from someone else? In the end, the size of our inbox and the amount of care and feeding it requires creates stress.
  • It doesn’t have a memory, making it hard to find/file/recall/share with others after the fact.
  • Email isn’t designed for collaboration. Attempting to share back and forth and have a conversation leads to unwieldy, long conversation threads.
  • It simple does many things poorly, namely transferring files, generating notifications, knowledge sharing and document management.

The new tools are certainly exciting, but how well they can mitigate and replace the challenges of email is yet to be seen.

*Additional reading:

One Comment on “Is it Time for Email to Go Away?”

  1. […] the earth, many experts feel it is just a matter of time before it becomes extinct. As noted in Is it Time for Email to Go Away?, there are many better ways to manage our tasks, communicate and foster team […]

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