Email: An Endangered Medium?
Unless you're behind the push to use alternative web-based mediums for communication, the idea of email becoming extinct anytime soon may seem dubious. But chances are strong that you used web-based email less in 2010 than 2009.
A recent comScore report, The 2010 U.S. Digital Year in Review showed that web-based email usage was down for just about every age group under 55 from 2009-2010, with the 12-17 age bracket showing the largest decline at a staggering -59%!
Web-based email, or webmail refers to email accessed through a browser, so think Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo mail, etc. as the majority of email usage analyzed in this report.
This means that the groups of people who make up the majority of internet users and have the most experience with email are now actually shifting away from the medium.
The report also noted that email usage among seniors has increased, which isn't surprising as a larger percentage of seniors today have had more exposure to the web than their predecessors.
So what was attributed to the shift? The report also went into detail on what sites people spent their time on. It showed time spent on webmail sites declined while social networking sites increased drastically.
People are spending more time on social networking sites and less time on email sites and there's no doubt a connection: the purpose of both channels is centered around connecting and communicating with one another.
Perhaps Zuckerberg Was Right
Last fall Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg predicted the death of email when he introduced Facebook's new messaging interface.
"We don't think that a modern messaging system is going to be email," Zuckerberg said at a press conference in San Francisco. "We want people to be able to communicate in whatever way they choose: email, text or Facebook message."
Facebook has simplified the way users communicate with the new email system, modeling it after instant messaging and other online chat boards. Users are now able to communicate through Facebook via text, email or instant message and receive communications from all of these avenues through one news feed. Users typically value when related information from a variety of channels is consolidated into one place and that's what Facebook's messaging interface is trying to accomplish for users. And with over 500 million users with active Facebook accounts, it's certainly playing a big role in the decrease of web email usage.
Will Business Email Follow Suit?
Many organizations with well established IT departments have typically hosted email in-house, whereas others as of lately have turned to cloud email services like Gmail in an effort to cut costs. While many companies and large universities are making the switch to cloud-based email services, will they make another shift towards using social networks to communicate?
If the usage of social networks continues to increase, which it's expected to do, then we can probably expect more workplace-focused social communication tools to gain adoption - the kind of social sites business managers would actually like their employees to be on all day.