How much has IM impacted e-mail?

* Views on the impact of IM on e-mail

Some believe that instant messaging will eventually replace the use of e-mail, while others believe that both e-mail and IM will co-exist because of their capabilities to complement each other.

We have been asking messaging decision makers about this for some time and have found some interesting changes in perception over the years. For example, in a study that we conducted in August of this year, we found that only 7% of decision makers believe that IM will eventually replace most use of e-mail. However, when we asked about this issue in a survey conducted in January 2003, we found that 36% of decision makers believed that IM would eventually replace a significant part of e-mail traffic. Why the change?

I think that part of the reason is that in 2003 decision makers were less familiar with the potential of IM than they are today because IM was not used to nearly the same extent. In our IM tracking survey of March 2003, for example, we found that only 18% of e-mail users were using IM; today, that figure has been doubled. Perhaps decision-makers' expectations for the impact of IM on e-mail were not as realistic as they have become, as is the case with just about any technology as it develops and becomes more mature. Another factor may be that e-mail is, for many users, less of a communications tool than a file transport and information-sharing one. For example, e-mail is often used primarily as a means of sending attachments rather than direct communication, whereas IM is still used primarily as a means of interpersonal communication. A third factor is that many users of IM actually are using presence instead of the communicative ability inherent in IM - that's why the majority of IM conversations actually end in a phone call.

I'd like to get your opinions on the eventual impact of IM on e-mail - please contact me.

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