Written by: Jon Lisi
Before virtual reality and video conferencing software, there was good old-fashioned email. It sounds ancient, I know, but when Ray Tomlinson introduced the first email program in 1971, he revolutionized modern communication. Tomlinson passed away a few days ago, and in honor of his legacy, we thought it’d be a good idea to celebrate his contribution to the culture, and, at the same time, figure out its future.
Is email like Atari, that amazing video game system we no longer use, or is it as timeless as a record player? To answer this question, we need to acknowledge why the system is so groundbreaking in the first place.
Electronic mail is exactly what it sounds like: Users can send and receive messages across the internet and other computer networks. Rather than taking weeks, an email will show up in your inbox within seconds. Whether it’s the sound of a “ding” or the iconic “you’ve got mail” from AOL, we all know when we receive a message.
For decades, electronic mail has made modern communication more convenient between individuals and institutions. But as newer tools stand to replace it, we must ask ourselves: Is email still relevant?
Of course, the vast majority of us still uses email on a daily basis to interact with colleagues. Every day, professionals read and send over 100 of them. But does it have to be this way?
In the digital workplace, there are other ways to communicate. Rather than emailing back and forth, colleagues can send information in private social networks like Yammer. In addition, documents can be stored in the Cloud and shared in Delve. If we all wanted to, we could abandon the system tomorrow and still get our work done.
So why haven’t we gotten rid of email, despite the advent of more “sophisticated” tools? There isn’t one answer to this question. Some organizations stick with the system out of habit; others, out of preference.
Perhaps this is the ultimate testament to a product’s unparalleled impact. The system has become so ingrained in our daily lives that, even though we can accomplish the same goals with newer tools, we choose email anyway. Somewhere, Mr. Tomlinson is smiling.