Marketplace Scratch Pad

Email vs Facebook

Scott Jagow Oct 12, 2009

The hot web topic of the day seems to be: Is email headed for the graveyard? It was prompted by a Wall Street Journal article titled “Why Email No Longer Rules.”

From the Journal:

We all still use email, of course. But email was better suited to the way we used to use the Internet–logging off and on, checking our messages in bursts. Now, we are always connected, whether we are sitting at a desk or on a mobile phone. The always-on connection, in turn, has created a host of new ways to communicate that are much faster than email, and more fun.

Why wait for a response to an email when you get a quicker answer over instant messaging? Thanks to Facebook, some questions can be answered without asking them. You don’t need to ask a friend whether she has left work, if she has updated her public “status” on the site telling the world so. Email, stuck in the era of attachments, seems boring compared to services like Google Wave, currently in test phase, which allows users to share photos by dragging and dropping them from a desktop into a Wave, and to enter comments in near real time.

But around the web there were quick retorts about how wrong the Journal is on this one. From Fast Company:

Email’s actually still settling into the public’s consciousness and becoming just another tool for digital communication among a range of different tools, each fitting its own niche. In other words, it’s absolutely not an “end of an era” for email–it’ll be around for ages yet.

And there’s a feisty debate in the comments section of the Journal story. A couple of examples:

COMMENT: Email is the most unproductive for managing communications between significant bodies — it’s dreadful when managing a large project, or for that matter any team over 2!

Email inside many businesses is now mostly an abused broadcast mechanism. Far too people use it to promote themselves to their superiors by cc’ing everyone. Far too many people sit behind their PC and send bursts out harming productivity. And this leave the recipients with an inbox of hundreds of items, and a lot of stress…

COMMENT: Let me get this right. One of the most emailed letters in the WSJ is an article proclaiming the death of email?

Good one. The fact that many companies don’t allow the use of Facebook, Twitter, etc seems to punch a huge hole in the Journal’s argument. On the other hand, people who dismiss those platforms or blogs as fads and useless in a business setting aren’t paying close enough attention.

I’m curious what you think. Will Outlook go the way of Netscape? What trends are you seeing at work?

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.