Social Networks are Killing Email

The data suggests that email will eventually wane.

According to my friend Bill, who teaches there, 92% of the 45,000 94% of students in a recent survey (Bill points to survey) at Michigan State University have Facebook accounts. That’s a high percentage of people! This number is probably not indicative of the whole campus, but it suggests that it could be well over 50%.

In addition, so many students use chatting tools and social networking sites that MSU is even considering phasing out the #1 internet tool of the last 30 years: email accounts. Because students are online all the time and messaging through other means, there is little need for personal, school-based email accounts. Everybody simply uses the built-in tools in the virtual spaces they inhabit.

When I was in school it was all about email. You’ll have an alumni email account for life, I was told. There was an assumption that I would need an email account for life. Maybe that’s not true anymore…

I recently talked with a father of a MySpace user who said that he tried to email his daughter using regular email and she never responded. He asked her why and she said, “I use MySpace for email. Send me mail there”. So he created an account and now he messages her there. Wow.

This is a profound change in the way we use the Web and build software. Email is now a commodity feature: we can almost assume that we’ll always have some sort of messaging system no matter what software we use. Messaging puts the social in social software

This tremendous uptake seems to make sense. Why email someone outside of the context that we’re in? Better to message them within the context of the application, where we’re virtually meeting, instead of sending them an email from an account they may not recognize, or to an account they check less frequently. In addition, because most people realize that we don’t need to keep messages unless they’re really important, it’s not a big concern if they all go poof tomorrow.

Social networks are killing email. Slowly, but surely.

Published: July 19th, 2006

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