Will e-mail become obsolete?

December 10, 2010 – My son pokes fun at me because I check my e-mail account several times a day.

He says people who frequently do so have lower IQs, and that e-mail is outdated and will be replaced. I don’t believe the first part of his statement, however, I’m beginning believe the second.

Aside from spam, which I do a decent job of avoiding, I enjoy getting e-mails. It’s a great way to keep in touch and make plans. But I may be the minority.

These days, friends tell me they’re less inclined to check e-mail and appreciate text messages sent to their cell phone instead. Or to one of the social networks, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, since both have in boxes to handle personal and professional messages.

And what about the office? It’s hard to imagine not using e-mail to communicate in a professional environment, but that’s changing, too. More companies are using instant messaging, file sharing and project management software to avoid e-mail clutter and relieve some of the stress on their servers.

E-mail was created 40 years ago, so it’s overdue for an update. With the Silicon Valley continuously racing to see who can create the next best thing, it’s a wonder it took this long.

Google tried to blaze the trail by creating Google Wave, a real-time social communication tool designed to replace e-mail, but with more bells and whistles. Unfortunately it fizzled before it even started. Technical experts claim it was ahead of its time, but it just didn’t capture the public’s attention. Now that Facebook has poached — I mean hired — the engineer who created Wave, we’ll see if it can succeed under a new name. One company’s failure is another company’s success.

It doesn’t matter who succeeds in replacing e-mail, or if it will ever go away completely, change is most likely coming. As technology guru Stewart Brand says, “Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.”

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