Email Lives!

Hey Pete, didn’t you hear? Email is broken! Yup, it’s been broken since 2003 at least, if not longer…

I like email. I like that when I create an email, it is saved on my own device (computer, phone, etc.) and then a copy of it is sent to someone else, and it doesn’t matter what kind of device that person is using, or what services they are signed up with, or any of those other crazy things like in the bad old days.

Remember when Prodigy users couldn’t email Compuserve users, or whatever the hell those other long-gone services were called? (Walled Gardens or Silos is what they were sometimes called.) To some degree, I feel like the Internet created this level playing field where everyone had to learn to get along and all be (somewhat) compatible. An email address is such a low barrier to entry… like a phone number. Imagine if you had to know if your friend used Verizon, or AT&T or some other company before you could even call them. (I know, you damn kids all use Skype or GTalk now, so again, you won’t see my point here.)

You can have an email address and not (appear to) be associated with any specific service or company. If you push people towards your Twitter account. You are reliant on Twitter. They control your identity and your messages, to some degree. It’s usually the same with Yammer, or any other system which might be used by some people to replace email because they think email is broken.

I’ve got emails that are easily more than 10 years old that I can go back to and read. They are on my own computer, and they are backed up. I can’t even get to Twitter messages I created just 3 years ago, because they won’t let me access them. There are probably solutions to this, but I don’t think Twitter is interested in any of them, as they don’t really help their bottom line. Companies and the services they run disappear, they get shut down, they die. Email is this “thing” that can’t really be killed even if all the companies that make email products die. It sort of reminds me of HTTP, a set of standards everyone has to adhere to. (Quick, look for the “HTTP is dead!” folks, I’m sure they’re out there…)

IM is another thing… I’m pretty sure that by default Apple’s iChat does not log messages. I’ve had the experience (more than once) of an iChat user telling me to resend the message I sent 10 seconds earlier because they closed their chat window. I know there are ways to fix this, but again, IM comes with the “people on this network may not be able to talk to people on that network” problem, as well as the idea that the messages are nothing you’d want to save… unless you want to do a lot of work to figure out how to save them.

Maybe I’m mostly happy with email because it works for me, and I’ve gotten used to how it works. It’s not perfect, but for now, it’s still much better than many of the proposed alternatives… It’s been around for nearly 40 years now, which makes it older than most of the people who seem to think it should die. But hey, can you blame them? Those damn kids are always trying to take over.