Email rocks. Phones are very yesterday and voice mail is so broken. Until someone can make it easy for us to extract a number from a voice mail, file the message away for later, label it, quickly find it again, search through it, forward it, reply asynchronously, etc etc, we are going to stick to email.
Email is the most powerful, flexible, open, and free messaging platform out there. Obviously Posterous loves email, we’re betting our company on it.
Yet it seems like everywhere you look, someone is declaring the death of email. The very next second they’re probably using email to send a message to their mom, schedule a meeting, or share files.
Chris Sacca is right: voice mail still doesn’t have some of the most basic functionality that makes email great. I hate it when people leave me voicemail. But that also goes for SMS, IM, Facebook messaging, Tweeting, and other new messaging systems. None of these match the power of email.
The origins of email can be traced back to the 1960s. Over the past 40+ years, we’ve seen incredible innovation in computers and technology. Yet nothing has challenged email for messaging. What makes email great?
- It’s an open standard, not controlled by any single body.
- There are no inherent limits in the standard. It can be used to transmit anything, of any size. As we’ve started sharing files, photos, and video, email has had no problem stepping up to the challenge. And it will continue to do this.
- It works on all devices. You can use it from your desktop with a real keyboard, or from your phone with a touch keyboard.
- Email works great for group chat. It’s easy to email a group of people, add or remove people from the thread, start new threads, etc. cc, bcc, all built right in.
- No carrier tie ins. You can get email from a number of providers. And you can even run it on your own domain.
- It’s free.
No other system out there can match this. Google Wave was probably the richest in terms of feature set, but it was too complicated and unusable in practice.
It’s all about being mobile and instant
I use SMS a lot. But if email is so universal and powerful, why do I need SMS?
- Distribution. Everyone with a cell phone has SMS and you don’t need to sign up for a data plan to use it.
- Mobile. I have my cell phone with me all the time and I’m always connected. I want to message when I’m on the go, not just when I’m at a computer.
- It’s instant. When I send a message to someone, they get it immediately and can reply immediately.
In the past three years since the iPhone was released, email has gained a lot of traction in these areas. Now, most of my friends have email in their pocket at all times. Email has great distribution and email is now mobile. What’s the missing piece? Email is not realtime.
Email needs to be realtime.
It’s been exciting to see a resurgence in innovation around email. Companies like Etacts and Rapportive are making the experience smarter. The most recent release of Google’s app for the iPhone adds push notifications for Gmail. These are young, smart people choosing to innovate on top of a 40+ year old platform, and I’m glad they are.
I’ve never owned a Blackberry and I never really understood the appeal. But now I get it. RIM made email the primary use for the device. They made it realtime, easy to navigate, and easy to type. They put email front and center, and nailed it.
I’d love to see the same on the iPhone. I’m sick of paying AT&T for SMS. I’m sick of Facebook emailing me when someone sends me a Facebook message. I’m sick of all my conversations being spread over multiple platforms, without archive or search.
I’m hoping Apple will also see email as the killer app for the iPhone and throw some resources into it. Together with MobileMe, they have an opportunity to make email shine. Email should be more than just another app.