Email had a good run, but it’s been broke for a long time and very soon, it may be a thing of the past.

Most of the business world took notice this weekend when the Wall Street Journal made obvious predictions based on some of the communication movements over the past few months. With a headline that reads “Why Email No Longer Rules,” reporter Jessica Vascellaro opened the eyes of corporate America that email may be riding into the sunset.
From pony express to the telegraph, snail mail and email, we are shifting again toward new forms of media delivery using social services that are highly personal. They also give you more control over who you’re talking to and deliver the message almost as quick as a thought.
There are two important disruptions driving this change – spam and the new social tools like Facebook, Twitter, Internet forums and inventive new applications like Googlewave.
The word spam was derived from the SPAM sketch on the BBC by Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Of course, we all recognize the little blue can that serves as a mystery meat, but the term really refers to those pesky unsolicited emails we receive from Viagra to pleas from third-world lottery winners.
Over the past several years, spam has riddled the Internet. So much so that PC magazine reports worldwide spam now makes up 86% of all email.
There’s a lucrative industry that has spawned to battle spam. There are servers and software that can be purchased for a front-line defense against this war. Our company manages email accounts for hundreds of users and just like the national average, we’re blocking some 90% of the garbage – but these devices are hardly a silver bullet.
It’s an expensive and time-consuming game of cat and mouse too because as spammers conjure more sophisticated tactics to pollute the service, you have to constantly update and build defenses. Eventually these obtrusive acts will absorb both profits and resources to maintain any reliable service.

So there’s a question of trust with regard to email. I really only want to receive communications that are relevant and that’s where social media tools offer a disruption to electronic mail.

New reports from Nielsen indicate that Americans now spend over 68 hours per month online.

That doesn’t include those who suffer from Internet addiction, but this average is almost half of television research which reports over 168 hours per month. Together, that’s over 220 hours of time in front of a screen!

One of the fastest growing activities on the Net is the explosion of social media websites like Myspace, Facebook and Twitter – not to mention YouTube.
Unlike email, these new services allow you to share direct connections with people and groups from family to friends. Instead of an open system that accepts email from the universe, you control the filters and who can send you updates.
It’s very personal too. The friends on my Facebook account are more connected than every before. It’s like a family reunion though and lacks the depth of intimacy of dinner or a glass of wine, but this informal gathering is engaging and addictive with its virtual voyeurism.
Even Twitter has become a valuable resource for short messages. My brother and his family use this text-messaging tool quite often to shout out brief updates. Best of all, it’s a poetic medium that requires an economy of words delivered in 140 character thoughts. Perfect for the busy lifestyle.
Social media services are fast too.
Downloading email used to be a real pain. Anyone who’s ever returned to the office after a lengthy vacation knows what I’m talking about too. There’s so much junk between the relative communications that it’s easy to overlook important messages altogether.
The social media tools live and breath now on an “always-on” culture. With the growth of broadband connections, you don’t have to wait for email to download. You can watch it stream in real time on your screen anywhere you have access.
Beyond Facebook and Twitter, there are several new apps on the way that promise even more connectivity and speed. I’m still waiting for my Tricorder like Star Trek or better yet, the Dick Tracy watchband, but in the meantime, there’s a new generation of software already available for free.
Earlier this week, I received my invitation to Googlewave. This innovative new service is a software resource Google was trumping several months ago. It took several months for them to open the doors, but after a few days of playing with the tools and watching their training videos, it hasn’t lived up to the hype. However, it does reveal itself as another death nail in the coffin of email.
Googlewave is a dashboard application that combines email, documents, chat and file sharing all into one screen. It works in realtime too and once again, it’s a closed system, perfect for a collaborative environment. Wanna send something to someone in your network? Create a “wave” and watch it happen in real time.
Software like this will continue to evolve and even though email may die a slow death, it will still be around for a while. After all, we’re still sending faxes aren’t we? Some people still use a CB radio too, but just like my telephone land line, email may be a service I can do without in the near future.
I still remember the day I stopped buying stamps and it’s not that often I walk to my mailbox anymore either. Licking those envelopes is something that can gladly stay in the past too. So thank you email for making us more productive and leading our way into the digital lifestyle, but the happiest thought I can imagine is leaving the spam in the cupboard.
As for getting in touch with me, check out my Facebook account and follow me on Twitter. That’s where the best of friends and family are hanging out today.