Email, a technology that was the first to genuinely unite the world, is living difficult times under the pressure from instant messengers (IM). Let’s compare them. 0️⃣:0️⃣. C’est parti.
Both IMs and email are rapid, both are instant: IMs arrive in deciseconds, emails arrive in seconds, that’s insignificant in real life.
Both get a point for speed. Score: IMs 1️⃣ — Email 1️⃣
Importance, priority, urgency
💬 Instant messaging was designed for urgency: and we intuitively expect IMs to beat emails on this metric. But IMs are not high-priority since the IM urgency channel is always choked up with shit: smiles, emoticons, OKs, XOXOs and banal quotes. We wake up at night, we throw ourselves on our smartphone’s notification, but in most cases it will be a photo of a kitten, a year-old meme or another false alarm. As a result the high-priority role of the IMs channel is discredited. Intrusion is kept, but significance is not.
📧 Email means zen, it was never considered as an urgency or emergency channel.
No winner on this metric. Score: IMs 1️⃣ — Email 1️⃣
Pressure to reply
💬 IMs assume that you will reply quickly or immediately. An unanswered message stressfully hangs over your shoulders as a sword of Damocles.
📧 Email is zen, it gives you a total “social” freedom to reply when you want.
+1 to Email for its peacefulness. Score: IMs 1️⃣ — Email 2️⃣
Stolen identities, lost phones, bad passwords, hacked accounts — shit happens both to IMs and badly configured email servers: ask Jeff Bezos about his hacked encrypted Whatsapp, ask the victims of the “super-protected” EncroChat, ask Hillary Clinton about her hacked email.
Score unchanged: IMs 1️⃣ — Email 2️⃣
💬 It’s impossible to hide behind an IM, it shows your activity to your correspondent if you want to see theirs (and you do). IM will always betray you.
The clock sign. One tick mark: my message is undelivered. Strange, why undelivered? Is she offline? No, look, another tick mark — she’s received the message, she must be reading, oh it’s blue, she’s read! Why isn’t she replying after 2⅗ seconds? Was there something wrong in my message? Is she offended? Oh, she is typing! Nothing. She’s typing again! Nothing. She must be erasing. Or she dropped writing. Why? What’s going on??!!
📧 The sender never knows if and when I read my emails. Full stop.
+1 to Email for its respect of privacy. Score: IMs 1️⃣ — Email 3️⃣
💬 IMs mean uniformity the way Mr Zuck or Mr Durov understand it. Take it or leave it.
📧 Email means total freedom through customisation of everything: templates, fonts, styles, signatures, colours,.. It’s my unique style, not theirs.
+1 to Email for its customisation. Score: IMs 1️⃣ — Email 4️⃣
💬 Messages in IMs have all the same status: no way to prioritise among important ones, less important and trash. Work, leisure, family, friends, junk, ads — same status for everything. I can only block or mute.
📧 I can fully automate my email so that only important messages arrive in my Incoming box, while the rest is dispatched to where I want it to belong. Folders, subfolders, tags, smart lists, rules, filters — no limits to automation.
+1 to Email for its programmability. Score: IMs 1️⃣ — Email 5️⃣
Aggregation or segregation?
💬 IMs are selfish and jealous, each of them thinks it is central and unique.
Steluţa is on Viber, Jean-Jacques is on WhatsApp, Esther created a group on iMessage omitting all her Android-friends, Misha is on Telegram, Grisha is on Snapchat, Dieter is on Skype, Tuberculina is on Facebook Messenger, and Xauzhen is on WeChat — how do I bring them all together??? Should I keep 8 applications running in push mode, times 2 for my computer, times 3 for my tablet devouring my traffic, battery and common sense? And even if I do so, how do I forward a message from Xauzhen to Steluţa? Should I really remember who is using what and where to search the message I need?
IMs segregate people and complicate our lives.
📧 Email means one ([wʌn], uno, один, אַחַת, یک) place for everything. One single standard. One protocol. One universal language, the old kind IMAP-SMTP tandem (‘s’ stands here for ‘simple’) is the Esperanto for all platforms without exception and discrimination. One single email agent combines personal, professional, X, Y,… ∞ accounts. All worlds, all facets of my life are brought to one place, to one single icon. Email aggregates everything and genuinely connects people.
+1 to Email for its integration role. Score: IMs 1️⃣ — Email 6️⃣
Do I need a smartphone?
💬 Yes, IMs are smartphone-centred. The phone number and the SIM-card are the initial access points.
📧 No, email is device-neutral. No type of device is privileged.
I’m on vacation, sailing, my smartphone falls in the sea ⇒ I’m disconnected from IMs till I come back home, get a new SIM-card from my operator (hope the office is open and it’s not a Sunday), buy and configure a new smartphone — a nightmare! And no instant messaging till the end of holidays. And what about my emails? I can access my emails 3 minutes later from any of my friends’ connected device.
+1 to Email for its device-neutrality. Score: IMs 1️⃣ — Email 7️⃣
Compatibility across platforms
💬 Every IM is a proprietary single standard, a separate fortress.
📧 Email is cross-platform. My personal hardware park includes a number of Macs, an iPhone, a Blackberry, an iPad, a Linux laptop and a dinosaur: a Windows-powered PC made in 2001. They all perfectly work with my email accounts, everything is synchronised from multiple mail servers across all devices in real time. I can even use my TV-set to read and write emails. Unbeatable flexibility.
+1 to Email for its universality. Score: IMs 1️⃣ — Email 8️⃣
Who’s in control of my information?
💬 IMs are controlled by private companies you have no control of. You sign up, you click “Agree” and here you are under the umbrella of Mr Zuck and Cambridge Analytica.
📧 Email standard doesn’t belong to anybody. You are in control, email is all yours. Forget other people’s policies, establish your own.
+1 to Email for its unbeatable privacy. Score: IMs 1️⃣ — Email 9️⃣
💬 Who still keeps a thread/message from 2012? No way: you should have deleted it 100 years ago to save space.
📧 You archive and move offline any message, any mailbox, any email account from any time period starting from mid-1990s if you wish. Email is life-long. Email messages and folders are simple files that can be archived, moved, extracted, (un)grouped, compressed, killed and resurrected the way you want it, entirely or partially, like a Lego.
+1 to Email for its perpetuity. Score: IMs 1️⃣ — Email 🔟
💬 IMs’ style is light: no ‘Dear Sir’, no ‘Best regards’, no ending, no addressing, no signature. Wonderful!
📧 Emails are still an old school legacy, they assume a more formal, sometimes heavy use. Sending an email without a ‘hello’ may be seen as rude. Also emails can easily be as light as IMs, but most people think they should be heavy. It’s a pity :—(
+1 to IMs for their friendly informality. Final score: IMs 2️⃣ — Email 🔟
Shame on you IMs. Email is the clear winner. Emails are perfect, but they are out of vogue and as a result they are on the verge of extinction together with many other perfect things like rear-driven cars, plastic cups and Lipton black tea with wild cherry flavour.