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May 22, May 15, May 1, April 17, April 3, March 27, March 20, March 13, February 20, February 13, February 6, January 23, January 9, December 19, December 12, December 5, November 28, November 14, November 7, October 31, October 24, October 17, October 10, October 3, September 26, September 15, September 8, September 1, August 25, August 18, August 11, August 4, July 28, July 21, July 14, July 7, June 30, June 23, June 16, June 9, June 2, May 26, May 19, May 12, May 5, April 28, April 14, April 7, March 31, March 24, March 17, March 10, March 3, January 7, December 28, November 10, November 3, October 27, October 20, October 13, October 6, September 29, September 22, April 21, February 24, February 17, February 10, January 27, January 13, December 16, December 2, The inbox, then, is a place of convergence: for junk, for work, for advertising, and still sometimes for informal, intimate correspondence.
Over the course of about half a century, email went from being obscure and specialized, to mega-popular and beloved, to derided and barely tolerated. The computer engineer Raymond Tomlinson sent the first email in Most computers were quite expensive—tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. One idea was to establish numbered electronic mailboxes so that messages could be printed out then hand-delivered to cubbies with the corresponding numbers. A simpler method, he thought, would be address messages to individuals.
Growth Engineer @Pinterest
Between the roar of the computers and the whir of the air conditioner required to cool them down, the room was noisy. Instead, he used a beige terminal the size of a large typewriter, without a mouse or trackpad, for inputting instructions. The terminal itself was something like a Teletype Model 33 KSR, and it was hooked up to a printer that spit out 10 characters per second, all capital letters.
In the s, early adopters flocked to networked services like CompuServe and Prodigy, both of which offered email access, though not necessarily as a central feature. That quickly changed. By , about one-third of Americans owned computers and 14 percent of them reported having a home Internet connection—mostly sluggish dial-up. As Internet adoption steadily climbed, email became its cultural touchstone, and the inbox became a phenomenon. America Online, the company that helped millions of Americans explore the web for the first time, was built around the experience of checking mail.
The Future of Email Security
Which meant that for millions of people, the experience of going online, from the very beginning, was fundamentally about checking your email. By , electronic mail crept into workplaces and across college campuses.
The novelty, at some point, faded. Since , Internet use has increased more than tenfold—with the global online population going from about million people to more than 3 billion people, according to Internet Live Stats. Email volume appears to be growing, still, but its share of overall electronic communication has shrunk. Teens barely use it or Facebook for that matter , opting instead for text messaging and chatting on platforms like Snapchat and Instagram. Three-quarters of teens regularly text one another, according to a Pew study , while just 6 percent of them exchange emails routinely.
People seem to hate email for the same reasons they once loved it. Though fax machines offered some of the same benefits, they were more frequently used for business-to-business communication than person-to-person correspondence. But leaving messages for people to pick up later means contributing to swelling inboxes that require time to maintain.
Email is neutral, meaning that anyone can email anyone else with an email address. The year the web was born, this flattening effect was astonishing. That neutrality is part of what makes email so special. It is, however, what makes inboxes overflow, too. In , instead of being the subject of romantic comedies and love songs, email is at the center of conversations about digital overload and work-life imbalances. People resent their inboxes because they are not in control of them. Email takes a psychological toll.
You basically can never work. Today, there are too many real-time communications platforms to track. Slack, a real-time messaging platform built for the mobile era, may be the best known example of what business communications might look like in a post-email world, but many companies bill themselves as inbox destroyers.
In the pre-Slack era, I worked in newsrooms that used Skype and Yammer. In Silicon Valley, the question of what comes after email is already dated.
In the newsroom where my colleagues and I used Skype, more than five years ago, one colleague, a website developer, refused to use email on principle. In , Robert Half Technology polled 1, executives and found that more than half of them believed real-time communications platforms would surpass email by this year. All this presents an odd paradox. And though email may be despised, it is still a cornerstone of the open web. For being the head of a multibillion-dollar tech darling, Butterfield makes his ambitions sound almost parochial. And in the business context, there are probably even more messages from systems.
And that change is driven, almost entirely, by the rise of mobile. Today, less than a decade since the first iPhone was introduced, more than two-thirds of adults in America have smartphones.