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Opinion: Email is next to useless
by Simon at 12:24 22/10/03 (Blogs::Simon)
In the last few months I've been coming to the conclusion that email as a tool for communication is becoming less and less useful. Here's why I think that...
It firmed up, this thought, as part of a talk I gave to the Institute of Business Advisers conference about the development of online communities.

In the talk, I asked delegates whether any of them dreaded opening their email, whether any of them resented the amount of spam they received and whether any of them were worried about email viruses.

The answers to those questions were all in the affirmative from the large majority.

Subsequently, I've brought the same subject up with other business people I've spoken to.

Every single one says the same thing - it's got to the point where there's so much rubbish in their inbox that they don't find email as useful a tool as it once was (and 'once' is not in the dim distant past, it's the last couple of years).

If you've got your own domain name, then sooner or later you'll get spammers abusing it for their faked 'From' addresses (where you get all the bounces for their spamming, as well as the complaints from their targets).

If you use Windows of any form, then sooner or later (unless you know what you're doing) you're going to catch an email virus. Only yesterday I met a guy who had a copy of McAfee installed, but had never registered it and never updated its virus definitions.

Incidentally, I only highlight Windows there because it's the most prevalent operating system on the planet - at least until the Chinese get their act together... The main reason non-Windows systems seem less affected by viruses is that they're a smaller target, but then we all know that monocultures are bad and susceptible to pandemics - it doesn't matter whether they are technological, biological or sociological monocultures.

Sure, there are loads of tools out there that can ease the burden somewhat - spam filter blacklists, anti-virus software, Microsoft Updates, but YAJ* isn't likely to have the knowledge and experience to allow them to adopt an approach that will spare them from the onslaught.

* YAJ = Your Average Joe

I notice, this week, that MicroSoft have announced (as part of their digital rights management system, I believe) a new facility in Microsoft-driven email - being a command that the author can give that prevents any recipient from forwarding any email that the command has been applied to.

Excuse me? This is just fine in a fully controlled environment where everyone is using Exchange Server / Outlook but it's no damn use at all elsewhere. Quite apart from anything else, pixels don't care about digital rights management, a screengrab is all you need to bypass the whole shebang.

Email, then, is in my opinion reducing to a mere notification tool (similar to SMS perhaps) - it's only good for letting you know that something interesting is going on somewhere else ('cos is sure as hell isn't going on in your inbox).

Meanwhile, people interested in actually communicating in groups will join those who've known from the beginning that online communities are really where it's at.

Imagine a world where the only email you ever pay attention to is the email that tells you there's new content in your online community you've asked to be told about.

There's an old saying that every application eventually evolves to the point where it can handle email.

The problem, and the solution, is that humans can't be bothered to evolve to the same point any more.

Email is nearly dead, and about time too.

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Opinion: Email is next to use... Simon - 22/10
    E-mail is dead Glen Hussey - 25/10
       Another email scam Simon - 26/10
    Gates' "big idea" Simon - 28/01
       Re: Gates' "big idea" Bruce Ure - 3/02