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Will email ever become extinct?

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When the first caveman grunted a greeting to another, communication was born for our species. Over time, it has evolved, covering major landmarks such as spoken language, writing, the printing press, postal services, and email. Many of these forms of communication threatened to put previous iterations six feet under; for example, do any of you still send telegraphs? In recent years, as the world crossed the bridge into the mythical land of Web 2.0 (and choirs of angels started singing), our perspective on communication shifted yet again, and an important question has been brought to light: might social networking kill email?

Email, first introduced in the 1970s, became prominent with free webmail—a service that began springing up in the late 90s. It offered a huge number of advantages over other forms of communication. Legibility was simple, formatting was beautiful, storage was boundless, and organization was precise. Oh, and did we mention that messages sent were delivered across the globe within minutes? For both individuals and businesses, this leap forward was a massive breakthrough.

As other web-based services have added messaging, however, the need for email is starting to seem redundant. The trend started most substantially when MySpace provided messaging capabilities. Since that time, the direct message, group message, and even instant messaging services have improved substantially. For many people, email sites are used as the less frequent method of communication, with social networks providing a primary and more intricate inbox.

So, is there any reason that email hosting groups shouldn’t bow down to social networking sites? Well, there are a few notable items. These include:

1) Attachments

While a few of the social networks allow limited attachment capabilities, they are restrictive. Only smaller attachments can be sent, and astoundingly tiny storage space is allotted.

2) Personal information

Just because you want to send someone a message doesn’t necessarily mean you want to give them information on yourself personally. Home town, full name, and even your relationship status are commonly public on social networks. Email provides a shield of comfortable anonymity, especially if you’re working with a business and sending emails on their behalf. You don’t want to send someone a DM on Twitter and have them be able to start researching you, as a person.

3) Security

While social networks do have certain layers of security in place, they pale in comparison to the precautions being taken by email hosting groups. This is especially important for businesses functioning through electronic messages, where security is vital to both reputation and profitability. If you’re sending anything business related, you’re going to want to make sure you can encrypt or at least get more protection than a face social media “wall.”

4) Clutter

Social networks send you a fair deal more mail than just messages from friends. Event invites, requests for your help in Farmville, and even relentless (and annoying) application spam are present in many of these sites. This means that the social network inbox is likely to be much harder to navigate than that of classic webmail.

Is it possible these things will change?

Absolutely.

But there will be plenty of warning before they do, and the changes themselves cannot be slight. When social networks conquer all the territory mentioned above, they may well reign as the new champions of the human communication world. For now, email provides us with a safer, more minimalistic, more secure, and less unnecessarily personal method to send messages

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