Email once united the world, now it is living difficult times under the pressure from instant messengers (IM). Let’s compare them.
Both IMs and email are rapid, both are instant: IMs arrive in deciseconds, emails arrive in seconds, that’s insignificant.
No winner here. Score unchanged: IMs 0️⃣ — Email 0️⃣
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 and XOXOs. We wake up at night — bling! — 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.
📧 Email has never had an ambition to become a medium of urgency or emergency.
No winner on this metric. Score: IMs 0️⃣ — Email 0️⃣
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 0️⃣ — Email 1️⃣
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 IM, ask Hillary Clinton about her hacked email.
Score unchanged: IMs 0️⃣ — Email 1️⃣
⚡️ It’s impossible to hide behind an IM, it shows your activity to your correspondents 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 0️⃣ — Email 2️⃣
⚡️ IMs mean uniformity the way Mr Zuck/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 0️⃣ — Email 3️⃣
⚡️ All messages in IMs have 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 0️⃣ — Email 4️⃣
Aggregation or segregation?
⚡️ IMs are selfish and jealous, each of them thinks it is central and unique.
Steluţa is on Viber, Jacques is on WhatsApp, Esther created a group on iMessage, Misha is on Telegram, Grisha is on Snapchat, Dieter is on Skype, Tuberculina is on FB 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 set up 24 synchronisations, 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 (letter ‘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 0️⃣ — Email 5️⃣
⚡️ Yes, IMs are 100% smartphone-centred. The phone number and the SIM-card are the access points. No smartphone = no communication for the most popular IMs (not all).
📧 No, email is device-neutral. Smartphone is not needed. Email was born 30+ years before smartphones.
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 on a working day, then I have to buy and configure a new smartphone. And before I do, I have no instant messaging. And what about my emails while my smartphone is sunk? I can access my emails 3 minutes later from any of my friends’ connected device. Http → webmail → password → and here I am online.
+1 to Email for its device-neutrality. Score: IMs 0️⃣ — Email 6️⃣
Besides the smartphone — what else can I use?
⚡️ Not much. Some IMs offer PC-apps, but almost all of them will only work if you are sitting next to your smartphone. The apps must be up-to-date, downloaded from App Store or Google Play, your hardware must be new and compatible,..
📧 Email is cross-platform. My personal hardware park includes: a number of Macs, an iPhone, a Blackberry, an old iPad, two Linux laptops (64-bit Ubuntu and 32-bit Mint) and a dinosaur: a Windows-powered PC made in 2001 with a 1996 version of Eudora on it. All of them 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 0️⃣ — Email 7️⃣
⚡️ I am writing these lines on 5 October 2021. Remember this day. Since yesterday all of 2’000’000’000 (two billion) Whatsapp users got disconnected in a second. Add to this FB IM and Instagram IM. Total collapse. It’s “normal”: every IM system is centralised like a sun with beams; when the sun is off, the beams can’t connect to each other. No sun (IM’s server) ⇒ no beams ⇒ all users suck.
📧 Email can fail too, and it does. But the email world with myriads of servers is decentralised, there is no single “sun”. Every problem is isolated, local glitches don’t influence the whole network. If an email server shuts down for a while, 99.99% of the world won’t even notice that.
No one gets a point. Score: IMs 0️⃣ — Email 7️⃣
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 selling your data.
📧 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 0️⃣ — Email 8️⃣
⚡️ Who still keeps a thread/message from 2012? No way: you should have deleted it 100 years ago.
📧 You archive and move offline any message, any mailbox, any email account from any time period starting from 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 0️⃣ — Email 9️⃣
⚡️ 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 by some fragile people. Of course, emails can (and should) 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 1️⃣ — Email 9️⃣
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.