The Dwindling Days of Email, and What’s Rising to Take its Place

In 1989,  Elwood Edwards, an American voice-over actor, recorded one of the most notable phrases in modern history: “Welcome! You’ve got mail!”

Now, nearly 28 years later, that cheery greeting is quickly becoming an echo of the past and is taking with it all that electronic mail was initially designed for. These decades have seen email’s brightest and darkest days – from viral cat videos and chain emails to spam, hoaxes, and pleas from Nigerian residents for bank transfers. What began as a much-needed reprieve from boatloads of interoffice memos and time-consuming correspondence soon shifted to a reliable social networking tool before finding its true calling as a highly effective marketing tool.

However, over the past five years, email has been fighting to stay relevant in a world where social media platforms and high-tech correspondence applications run the show. Despite these efforts, email continues to lose its sharp edge and is facing a slow demise that’s sure to come to an end. Here are four reasons why.

1. Email isn’t being used the same

If you were born any time after the early 1980’s, chances are you don’t even remember the inception of email. You likely don’t recall just how handy it was for students to email professors rather than schedule office visits, or how much easier it was for government workers to connect over email rather than arrange conference calls or meetings. When it first landed on the scene, email was welcomed with open arms as the go-to resource for fast, efficient correspondence, and it played a monumental role as a pioneer of global connectivity.

While Millennials still have email addresses like Generation Xers and Baby Boomers, they don’t use them the same. Instead of turning to email for corresponding, networking, and marketing, Millennials use email primarily as a way to engage with brands and garner marketing messages. When it comes to actually communicating, connecting, and collaborating with others, however, younger generations (who make up a substantial portion of today’s workforce) turn to the devices that are forever glued to their palms and fire up messaging apps and texts that let them connect from thousands of miles away in just a matter of seconds.

2. Email lacks instantaneous connectivity

We’ve all been there – that time when you’re communicating with someone over email and, after several quick responses, your inbox goes cold and you get nothing but radio silence from the other end. Despite the fact that your email was (most likely) delivered within seconds of being sent, you can’t always count on it being read immediately.

You’ve probably been on the receiving end of this email fault, too: You see an urgent message appear in your inbox, but, with your attention drawn to other needs and tasks, by the time you get the chance to respond, that particular email is buried underneath a slew of other time-sensitive messages. If you and the individuals you communicate with understand that this correspondence is likely not immediate, then emailing works just fine. However, with instant gratification and instantaneous expectations becoming the norm, this type of communication is quickly becoming insufficient for productivity.

Due in part to the growing prevalence of Instant Messaging and other apps that live up to prompt expectations, people are straying further and further away from email as the main resource for quick, effective communication. Furthermore, because email has morphed into a resource that provides various tools for various purposes and various people, maintaining communication continuity is becoming ever more challenging. Without establishing proper protocols or expectations, email can easily cause challenges and breakdowns in the communication aspect of corporate or team environments.

3. Email is becoming a spam wasteland

In 2015, the average corporate email user sent and received 125 emails per day. Of those 125 emails, roughly 11% were spam or junk mail. Though this number may not seem too substantial on paper, spending a notable amount of time each day sifting through the spam in your inbox to locate emails that really matter can get old – quick. Furthermore, when you open your inbox every morning, chances are you start by immediately deleting junk mail before looking for the taglines that need your attention. And by the time you’re done deleting all irrelevant mail, you’re already 30 minutes into your workday.

Excessive spam and junk are some of the biggest contributors to email’s demise. With email inboxes now resembling more of a message wasteland than a productive work platform, more and more people are turning to other resources for effective communication.

4. Email leaves a lot of organizational needs unmet

Many people turn to email as a way of creating a reliable trail to trace projects, critical company correspondence, etc. And while the concept behind this idea is understandable, the infrastructure of email leaves a lot to be desired in terms of organization. For example, have you ever sent or received an email of which you know the subject line or content information, but when you go to search for it in your inbox, it seems to have magically disappeared? With hundreds of emails flooding your account every day and just one inbox to receive them all, it’s virtually impossible to guarantee optimal organization at all times. And even though you can create specific folders and filters to help facilitate your organizational needs, the amount of time and effort it takes to manually sort individual messages is simply not conducive to productivity.

Business communication and work management software like Workfront has filled the need for correspondence organization by providing users with the technology needed to categorize questions, documents, communication, proofs, work requests, and much more. These applications have further eliminated the relevancy and need for email servers.

A Look at What’s To Come

As many good things eventually do, the email era is coming to an end. However, in its wake comes a new horizon of innovative technology that streamlines, organizes, and facilitates modern correspondence with integrated instant messaging applications, mobile face-to-face video programs, and global connectivity software. And while the digital address of email will remain necessary and relevant for years to come, its days as a leading communication platform are a thing of the past.

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