Is e-mail really losing its clout?

* Research suggests e-mail is losing ground to IM and text messaging

There was an interesting article published last week by an Associated Press writer that discussed some results from a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Basically, the article said that e-mail is losing ground to instant messaging and text messaging for both personal and workplace communication, particularly among younger people. The article cited the growing problem with spam as one of the factors that is driving people away from e-mail, although the article made it clear that e-mail is definitely here to stay.

I found the article interesting for a couple of reasons. First, our own research shows that workplace use of e-mail is growing at a rapid pace. A large survey that we conducted in January shows that users are sending 17% more e-mail and receiving 20% more e-mail this year compared to last year, implying that e-mail use is continuing and growing at a quite healthy pace.

Further, there is a belief that IM and text messaging are replacements for e-mail. I believe that these technologies are actually complementary, not replacements for each other. This is based on the fact that when people use IM or text messaging, what they're really using is presence information about their contact and sending them the equivalent of an e-mail via a communications channel that is linked with that presence information. Because desktop and mobile e-mail systems are increasingly coupled with presence information, I believe that the distinction between e-mail and IM will become less pronounced in the future, and that communications will be driven more by the need for presence information than by a need to communicate using a particular medium.

Another factor to consider is that in North America, spam via text messaging or IM is not nearly the problem it is with e-mail. However, in some places users are bombarded with text-messaging spam, thereby negating one of the advantages of this technology cited in the article.

I'd like to get your thoughts on this issue. Is e-mail becoming a relic of the past, soon to be replaced by IM and text messaging? Or is e-mail use going to continue to grow alongside IM and text? Please drop me a line.

* For more about the Pew report see "Study: Bloggers are diverse and creative, but don't throw out newspaper yet".

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