Ordinarily I tend to agree with many of the things PCWorld's John C. Dvorak has to say, but a column he wrote this week has left me scratching my head. He asserts that the email system is fundamentally flawed and has pronounced it "dead." Email? Dead? What?
Dvorak gives readers nine reasons to support his opinion, ranging from an assertion that people sometimes give out email addresses with no intention of checking their inboxes, to an inability to confirm that emails have been received at the other end. While he makes some valid points, I just can't get onboard with the idea that email should be taken out back and shot.
Even though it's been around a while, email is an evolving technology. Just when it seems we've got the nuances of email all figured out, along comes another method of communicating that throws everything off. Instant messaging makes it possible for us to ask someone a quick question without firing up an entire email application. Facebook lets us know what our friends and colleagues are up to before we even ask. Twitter combines the best of everything: direct messaging for quick personal contact, micro-blogging so we can track what's happening with people we know, and the ability to interact with others in bite-size moments whenever we get the chance.
Instead of a primary means of communication, email has become another tool in our arsenal. It's still perfect for longer conversations, creating digital paper trails, or as a method for transferring files to one another. It's usefulness has changed not been eliminated, and there's certainly no reason to declare it dead.
Dvorak's main beefs with email seem to be based mainly on how people use (and abuse) it, not its technical merits. While I certainly know people who don't have email addresses or never check the ones they have, it's rare and not people I know professionally. I'm at a loss to think of a single industry or chosen profession that can successfully exist without email, except for perhaps Carthusian monks.
When email surged in popularity, people predicted the demise of the U.S. Postal Service. When VoIP technology because accessible to the masses, people predicted the end of plain old telephone service (POTS). I imagine when typewriters were invented some predicted the demise of the ink pen.
My point is, as technology changes we need to adapt and change with it. Email allowed us to communicate in ways we never could before, but now it's not the only game in town. I agree that anyone who gives out an email address and then doesn't check their mail should be swatted with an Ethernet cable. the email system overall isn't flawed. Often is just the people who use it.