News Analysis: The Wall Street Journal recently published a comprehensive feature on the wane of e-mail's reign, thanks to the rise of Facebook, Twitter and collaboration platforms such as Google Wave. Unfortunately, it's not a fair reflection of the world outside Silicon Valley, where hype browbeats the public and wills products into popularity. E-mail is asynchronous and we like it that way. When we have worked our 11th hour and are ready to unwind, we log off, we go to bed and when we wake up, e-mail is waiting.
The Wall Street Journal published
a comprehensive feature Oct. 12
on the wane of e-mail's reign, thanks to the rise of Facebook, Twitter and
collaboration platforms such as Google Wave.
There are many, many fine points in the piece, which fairly covers the
increase in adoption of social networks and the proliferation of real-time Web
services and the filters and tags that help us govern them.
Unfortunately, it's not a fair reflection of the world outside Silicon
Valley, where hype browbeats the public and wills products into
popularity. Millions of desk-bound workers and corporate road warriors in
offices all over the world rely on e-mail as the de facto standard for
communication, often in lieu of telephones.
Just ask the folks who run Microsoft Outlook or IBM
Lotus, and even the Google Apps
people. Despite all of the fun, newfangled Web
services, they are not replacing King E-Mail in offices.
Yes, 300 million people are using Facebook
to connect with
friends, family and even coworkers, and, yes, almost 60 million people are forgoing asynchronous e-mail for Twitter's
And yes, people are bidding on eBay for a Google Wave invite
because that chimera of e-mail, instant messaging, file sharing and social
is fodder for the real-time communications and collaboration craze.
Jessica Vascellaro, the San Francisco-based author of the Wall Street Journal
"We all still use e-mail, of
course. But e-mail was better suited to the way we used to use the
Internet-logging off and on, checking our messages in bursts. Now, we are
always connected, whether we are sitting at a desk or on a mobile phone. The
always-on connection, in turn, has created a host of new ways to communicate
that are much faster than e-mail, and more fun. Why wait for a response to an
e-mail when you get a quicker answer over instant messaging? ... E-mail, stuck
in the era of attachments, seems boring compared to services like Google Wave."
E-mail may be boring, but, sorry, it remains the king of communications.
Despite Nicholas Carr's assertion that asynchornous communication
our enemy, we can't always be connected, nor do we want to always engage with real-time
As anyone who has suffered the headache-inducing, co-editing cursors of Google Wave
always-on connectivity hurts
worse than e-mail. Sometimes we need to unplug, regardless of
whether we are working or playing.
The notion that e-mail is some bygone, pass??Â« application is wishful talk
perpetuated by Silicon Valley folk breathing in every
bit of Web 2.0 asbestos imaginable. Try this new widget! Have you checked out
this recommendation engine? You mean you're still using Snurl?! You have to try
Facebook and Twitter are great social networks that spark fun, often
frivolous and speedy communications. But these platforms are hardly supplanting
Outlook, Lotus Notes or even Gmail in businesses.
E-mail is asynchronous and we like it that way. When we have worked our 11th
hour and are ready to unwind, we log off, we go to bed and, when we wake up, the
e-mail is waiting.
This poetry (or pablum) in digital text commands enough of our valuable
attention as it is. We needn't be presently connected or communicating with
senders or recipients to compound the efficiency drain (though some of us do
it). A Wall Street Journal reader summed it up best:
"I'll stick with e-mail-write
when I want, as often (or not ) as I want, to whom I want privately. No
interest in letting the world know that I overcooked the spaghetti."
Facebook, Twitter and Google Wave will all have their place for instances
where the immediacy and intimacy of real time are required. But e-mail, whose
true power is its asynchronous nature, will remain king.
If there is any God governing e-mail and the real-time Web services vying
for our attention, it's good old-fashioned common sense-knowing when to power