WSJ's 4 PointsIn case you haven't read it, here are the points that the WSJ article makes:
- IM is better than email because it gets you faster responses.
- Twitter and Facebook updates are better than email because they're informal and fun.
- All these updates will cause even more overload and filtering needs to improve.
- Facebook gives you context about people's location, mood, and current activity. You need to coordinate less than if you were using only email.
Gabor's 7 PointsMost people misread the WSJ piece as "email is dying". But email isn't dying, it's being complemented by new modes of communication. And despite Paul Graham's warning about "lists of N things", here's my list of 7 things to contribute to the social network updates vs. email debate.
- Twitter and Facebook updates are orthogonal to email. Looking through the last 200 tweets on my Twitter feed, I didn't find a single update that I would have sent as an email had Twitter not existed. The use cases are too different. Thus, Twitter is a parallel world to email.
This HuffPo article puts it best:
If you're like us, you still send text messages on the weekends, check voicemail at work, post photos to Facebook, watch viral videos on YouTube, and Tweet your favorite news.
In other words, we haven't "killed off" our previous tools: we're actually adding, not abandoning, platforms. And when we do ditch, it's because of forces more complex than seasonal trends (or the news cycle).
- Email is private, Twitter is public. Twitter and Facebook can't replace email because they're public or semi-public communications channels. Direct messages in Twitter and Facebook messages are bad, low-fidelity clones of email functionality. You shouldn't use them.
- Your work email belongs to your employer. You can't use Facebook for work. The messages and the intellectual property you create while at work belong to your employer. If you leave the company, you shouldn't be able to take them with you.
- Email is about task management. The reason why your inbox is a source of stress and your Twitter feed is not is because email is a task manager. Twitter and Facebook are entertainment. Your boss wouldn't assign a task to you via a Facebook update. But if your boss sends you an email, you better read it and get that work item done.
- The unread messages counter. Unlike Twitter, email has an unread message counter. If it didn't have that counter, email would make you far less anxious. But it would lose its work value as a task manager.
- The future of email is not to become IM. Part of the value of email is that it's asynchronous: While you're getting actual work done, new messages pile up. You don't want to give everyone the chance to interrupt your work flow. You wouldn't get things done. And that's exactly the problem with turning email into IM, whether it's with push notifications or Google Wave: Yes it will get you answers instantly, but it would make everyone less productive.
- The lack of innovation in email is because the underlying protocols suck. If you have a great idea about how to use or display the data in Twitter, all you need to read is the Twitter API docs. If you have a great idea in email, you need to know MIME (the encoder), SMTP (the message protocol), IMAP or Exchange (the access layer), and your email client (the viewer). The email technology stack is huge, wobbly, and antiquated.
Take IMAP: a hugely inefficient, stateful protocol with an ugly message format. State-of-the art in the late 1990s, yes, but if you were to reinvent it today, you could do a much better job.
We need to make it easier to innovate around the mail client. We could rip out everything (maybe save for SMTP) and build a great new stack that allows fast iteration. Make it easier to move the needle in email, and the needle will move.