Thoughts on the future of email

About a year ago when Slack was making waves as the next big thing, a lot of people wrote about how Slack meant the end of email. Verge announced that email was going to go away for sure this time. Time Magazine even called Slack the ‘email killer’. But as you might have noticed, email hasn’t gone anywhere. And it isn’t going to. The awesome folks at Intercom recently wrote about how email was here to stay.

Adding to the key reasons that they’ve mentioned in their article, I feel email works because

  • Email has less noise: No discussions about who wants to share the 11” pizza with Jay, no cat videos and no bots (hopefully). Imagine having to go through a discussion you missed on chat versus email. Emails tend to be as coherent as chats can be fragmented.
Counters make you anxious?
  • Emails are like documents: Well written emails can serve as documentation. You can go back and update an email thread but you can’t edit an email you’ve sent already (unlike chat messages).
  • Emails have attachments: New messaging services like Slack do provide support for embedding links, sending files etc. However, it’s tough to find them with context. It’s great for sharing drafts but which one is the final draft? And let’s face it, not everyone is careful about naming their files. Email in this case provides better rediscovery with context.
  • Email has superior search: While slack has a great search feature but searching email is a lot easier because of lesser noise.

On a side note, I wonder if Slack will ever open up cross company chat. I hope not though, can’t imagine getting pings from a sales rep I met 2 weeks ago and have been avoiding ever since on all mediums (that already include email, SMS and Whatsapp)

Now don’t get me wrong. I love Slack. It’s amazing. Used with discipline, Slack can be a great tool for collaboration between teams. But I feel it’s a standalone tool that a company can use along with email and not as a replacement. Chat is casual, email is formal. Both serve different purposes.

I get the excitement people feel at the thought of not having to deal with emails. Been there, done that. But may be the fault, dear friends, is not in our inboxes, but in ourselves, that we let them make us so anxious.

I wrote an exhaustive guide to better email. You can find the link at the bottom of this post.

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