Email not dead yet

If we didn’t have email, then we’d have to invent something very similar. Maybe we’d limit the ability to broadcast a single message to multiple addresses and maybe we’d associate a nominal cost with each message sent. But we’d still need something very similar to support our accustomed interaction.

Some believe that collaborative workspaces make email based work processes obsolete. But I’m sceptical whether collaborative workspaces will scale. Not in the technical sense – we can build systems to handle umpteen workers and umpteen projects. But in the management sense – can we manage the combinational explosion of umpteen workers and umpteen project in all the myriad ways? Workspaces may take over formal, large and/or long-lived collaborations, but email will still own the ad hoc, small and/or short-lived collaborations.

Too much attention is focused upon building the ultimate weapon against spam. Spam is pernicious because email is free. Attach even a small cost to email and the level of spam goes down dramatically. Challenge-response approaches don’t need to requre a human response. Go ahead and let a computer respond – just make the response computationally expensive. Crypto approaches don’t need to require proof of the sender’s identity. Let anyone send – but require a uniquely generated, computationally expensive message for each recipient.

Yes, email is broken, And yes, fixing email will probably eliminate it’s use as a broadcast medium. But email is not dead yet.