If you're like me you send and/or receive 100 e-mails a day. And that's the ones that don't get filtered or deleted. My e-mail comes to my computer (which is always right in front of me). My e-mail comes to my phone (which is always right beside me). I love g-mail's use of conversations, searches, threads and documentations. Having an easily accessible archive of what I said and what was said to me has saved my butt a number of times. I can't image life with out e-mail. But, the day will come when e-mail is outdated. I think it's coming sooner rather than later.
I first began postulated the demise of e-mail when I heard and interview given by Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook). Facebook is a young company with smart people running it. You may not like everything that facebook does, but that is because you are not their target audience. There target audience just started their freshman year of highschool. In the interview Mark mentioned that a 15 year old girl complained to him that e-mail is too slow. To you and me this may seem ludicrous, but to a generation born into text messaging (a miniature version of e-mail) the idea of a subject line is even a waist of time.
Like it or not, for the past 50 years the "next generation" of people have determined what is in and what is out. Innovative companies like Facebook know how to use this to their advantage. This is the genius behind Conan O'brien. I've watched Conan for years, and a running gag of his was that he played to his 3rd grade audience. Funny? Yes, but there was some truth to it. The current young people grew up watching Conan. When NBC made a move that was negative for Conan he didn't have to spin anything. I'm not sure if he had time to even call his publicist before there was an uprising of fan-based support. Theses were not fans that he had obtained during his 15 minutes on the Tonight Show. These were the 3rd graders that he'd been entertaining for years.
Not too long after the Zuckerberg interview there was rumor that Facebook would come out with a g-mail killer. (Shudder the thought.) This can't possibly be can it? I mean g-mail has everything. What does Facebook have? FB Chat? Who like FB Chat? Gasp ... 15 year olds do!
That's not the only rumor going around. I recently read an article on WinSuperSite that supports such as notion as well. The article suggests that it's still a ways off, but I think it is sooner than we think.
I frequently e-mailed my clients their proofs. They would respond, and then I would make changes and send it again, and they would approve it, and I would send them the full size version. Then they would forget where they saved it and I would send it again. Even for me e-mail has become inefficient at times. I have moved to providing a proofing section on my website and an ftp account for my larger contracts. Could this be the beginning? But, I'm just a design guy. This doesn't translate into other business, right?
Oh, contraire! Most business have already moved away from managing their customer service over the phone. But, many have even moved away from customer service over e-mail. They provide their own online instant chat that allows the customer care provider to carry on multiple conversation at the same time... instantly. No one likes sitting on hold forever, but no one likes waiting on an e-mail response either. Here was a tweet posted by a friend of mine recently, "i hate emailing customer service. they never respond back fast enough." Maybe you have never said this before, but we've all thought it.
Tweeting is efficient for business as well as personal use. I just had a back-and-forth conversation with someone using tweets. I didn't have to hit compose, type out her name, enter a subject or chose a salutation. I just started typing.
Speaking of tweets, let me point out that during the Conan uprising the triumphant youth did not send out a chain letter. They didn't start a party line. The didn't SPAM anyone's inbox. They tweeted; they posted; they blogged, and instantly everyone they knew could see what they thought.
The question, of course, is what. What will be the next medium? Will it be Facebook or Twitter? Will it be Text Messaging or Chatting? Will it be something we haven't seen yet? They're doing some crazy things with holograms in Japan. Honestly, I don't know. My guess is there is some future Harvard drop-out working on it right now. For the moment, I'm going to cling to my g-mail and search the web in hopes of adopting the new technology quickly enough.
I'll keep you posted on what I find out.