Monday, October 22, 2007

It's the end of the Personal E-mail, as we know it

Here's an interesting observation, I have received far more wall-posts on facebook in the last couple of months that I've signed up than personal e-mails from friends in probably the whole of this year. The social networks phenomenon led by facebook/orkut/myspace/friendster is driving the last nails into the personal email coffin. Here's why:

Context is the catalyst for conversation. Ever notice that you can hardly go beyond "What have you been upto?" when you meet someone you haven't met in years, but chat at length with a friend you meet every weekend. Its all about context, the more information you have about the other person, the more conversation material there is. Pictures and status messages all add to that context. I've recently added friends I haven't met in almost a decade but am enticed to leave a message when they post a picture or a funny status message.

E-mails are impersonal. Unlike handwritten mails and phone calls, there is little human touch barring humor in the email body. In wall posts, there are at least pictures displayed alongside the message, that makes it far easier to connect (especially if you have profile pictures).

Personal status messages and wall posts are the latest in many-to-many communication. They are much easier and less intrusive to reach out to many people with just one update or post. Sure, you can send out mass-emails with one and flood your friends inboxes. With facebook, for example, you get updates in the form of personal news feeds that you can control whom you can get more information from or lesser of.

Spam mail- Its unlikely that you will ever receive spam posts (from unknown people) with the correct privacy settings. Email providers are still grappling with handling junk mail. Why you ask? Because social networks are closed systems. For people to communicate they must all be on facebook...a friend on facebook can not communicate with one on friendster or myspace. But your .mac account will receive email from a yahoo, gmail, hotmail or business email...and yes the spammers out there. I still remember the ruckus that was created when hotmail started censoring emails from yahoo.

So what happens to e-mail? Will they only be used for getting shipping notifications, bank statements and facebook updates :) ? Or will everyone converge onto facebook creating one big entity (read monopoly) that the DOJ force them to open up to the rest or worse...break them into many baby-books...only time will tell!

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