Recently, I read a story in Bloomberg that was written in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, titled Working at Home Should Finally Bury Email (also published in The Sydney Morning Herald as Coronavirus should be the end of the work email). Written by the same author as, It’s OK to Take Pens from the Office, But Not the Pasta Salad and Why It’s So Hard to Spot a Lie, it was essentially a puff piece (shot down by the contributors in The SMH Comments section), which shared subjective snippets of the author’s experience working from home during COVID-19.
Email is not dead
The issue that I have with this piece, and all of the “email is dead” articles before it, is that not only is it ill-informed, but it has the power to distort the narrative of how important email (still) is in 2020, especially during times of crisis.
The article’s push for people to use more modern technologies such as Slack, Skype and Zoom, ignored the fact that these technologies are not mutually exclusive (we use these collaboration tools too!) and conveniently forgot to quote Slack co-founder Stewart Butterfield, when he said:
“Email is not going away anytime soon… Email is the lowest common denominator. It’s the way you get communications from one person to another. There isn’t really an alternative. Sometimes people will have Facebook messenger turned on, but 99 percent of the time if you’re sending a message to a human you don’t know well, you’re using email.”
The irony of the Bloomberg article was…
- How do people contact the author/editor of the Bloomberg story? By email.
- What’s the first thing that you need in order to enter to sign up to Bloomberg? An email address.
- How does Bloomberg deliver “insights” to its readers? By email.
- What does someone need to sign up to Slack, Skype or Zoom? An email address.
- How can someone receive updates from the Slack blog? By email.
Email is critical during COVID-19
As a global email software company (think telco email, not MailChimp email) that supplies to the likes of tier one telcos such as Optus and Singtel, our telco customers across the globe are telling us that in addition to witnessing an unprecedented COVID-19-prompted surge in network traffic, they are also seeing an increase in email usage. Presumably, this is because consumers are desperate to stay connected to electronic updates from friends, family, and companies and services that they care about.
Banks, supermarkets, telcos, airlines, schools, sports events (from Formula 1 and Wimbledon, to Jenny’s dance class and Jason’s karate class), medical services, postal services, retail stores, superannuation/401k providers, local/state/federal governments, charities, and literally all of the big (and small) organisations that you can think of are relying on email as an essential communication channel to their customers, because despite the meteoric rise of social media, most businesses are not connected to all of their customers on Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat, and they do not have the physical resources to phone everyone personally.
In addition to our current customers, we’ve been having conversations with some of our business prospects from the past, who have reached out to invite us back for a (virtual) product demo and discussion. The common theme in these talks is that COVID-19 has taught them how critical their email system is, and once COVID-19 clears, they are interested in upgrading to an email platform that is more stable, scalable, and (to take the pressure off their support desks) more end-user-friendly.
Email is an essential lifeline
Despite the clickbait headlines, email is not dead, and nor should it be. Forty-nine years after the first electronic mail delivery, 3.9 billion people (aka half of the global population) use email. Mailbox count and email traffic continue to grow, with the latter approximating 250 billion messages daily.
Email remains unrivalled in interoperability among telcos and service providers, and between end user senders and receivers. It remains the preferred medium for inter-business interaction, and even in an era of Slack, Zoom, Skype and Facebook, an email address still serves as both a fundamental means of digital identification, as well as an essential lifeline to the digital world.
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