Ten years ago, email was one of the most incredible developments of the computing age. To be able to send a message to someone on the other side of the world and have it arrive almost instantly is genuinely a fantastic achievement, and the pinnacle of communication. Since then though, it's all gone a bit downhill. Not in terms of service, but certainly reputation. 73% of all email sent is spam, meaning we now open our inboxes with a sense of trepidation of how many spam messages are going to require deleting today. As many unfortunate victims have discovered, if you purchase one item from Boden clothes online, then that's it – you're on their mailing list forever.
Users are now turning to social networking sites for their communication, because it gives them a sense of control. Suddenly, they are on the other end of spam. Type a short message, and you have spammed all of your friends' news feed, for example. It's also a lot less labour-intensive. Facebook Chat messages are automatically deleted as they get older, eradicating the need to give your inbox a spring clean. ‘High school kids don't use email,' noted Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook in 2010. He's right – Comscore reported a 59% decrease in the use of Internet-based email services such as Hotmail and Gmail last year.
Email still has its uses, however. Many people's online lives are tied to their email accounts. Every site they've ever signed up for requires an email address, so that if they forget their password, they can request a new one. Worryingly, these often include accounts for online bank services. This is because email is universal and compatible with absolutely anything. And with an estimated three billion accounts in existence, email still dwarves any other form of communication.
To which we can say – the end of email? Not yet. Just the end of its global monopoly.