Yes, Email Is Exciting. Get Excited!

Email Is Still the Best Thing on the Internet.

“E-mail is dead, or at least that’s what Silicon Valley is banking on,” wrote Businessweek tech reporter Ashlee Vance.

There’s the co-founder of Asana, the work software startup. Email has “become a counter-productivity tool,” Justin Rosenstein likes to say.

Slack, the superhot work chat tool, likes to brag that they’ve “saved the world from over 70,000,000 emails” (if you assume that every five Slack messages prevent one email from getting its wings).

And it’s not just entrepreneurs with cloud software to sell. There are the young people, too, especially whatever we call the younger-than-Millennials.

Getting an email address was once a nerdy right of passage for Gen-Xers arriving on college campuses. Now, the kids are waging a war of indifference on poor old email, culling the weak and infirm old-people technology. One American professor maintained that, to his students, “e-mail was as antiquated as the spellings ‘chuse’ and ‘musick’ in the works by Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards.” The vice-chancellor of Exeter University claimed, “There is no point in emailing students any more.” The youth appear to think there are better, faster, more exciting ways to communicate than stupid email.

Yet, despite all the prognosticators predicting it will—choose the violence level of your metaphor—go out of style, be put out to pasture, or taken out back and shot,email grinds on.

You can’t kill email! It’s the cockroach of the Internet, and I mean that as a compliment. This resilience is a good thing.

“There isn’t much to sending or receiving email and that’s sort of the point,”observed Aaron Straup Cope, the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum’s Senior Engineer in Digital and Emerging Media. “The next time someone tells you email is ‘dead,’ try to imagine the cost of investing in their solution or the cost of giving up all the flexibility that email affords.”

Email is actually a tremendous, decentralized, open platform on which new, innovative things can and have been built. In that way, email represents a different model from the closed ecosystems we see proliferating across our computers and devices.

Email is a refugee from the open, interoperable, less-controlled “web we lost.” It’s an exciting landscape of freedom amidst the walled gardens of social networking and messaging services.

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