Lee Bryant is co-founder of Headshift, the world’s biggest social business consultancy. He believes email’s dominance over business communications is coming to an end.
“When email was first developed it was an excellent point-to-point communication tool when nothing else existed,” says Mr Bryant.
“I think we’ve reached the stage where email as means of communicating is overloaded. I think we will see what happens on email today transitioning towards various kinds of both internal and consumer facing social tools.”
These are “flow-based” tools such as wikis, micro-blogging and internal social networks, according to Mr Bryant.
“I think fundamentally one of the biggest problems is that social tools communicate slightly more in the open, they create ambient knowledge and ambient awareness for others who are not even in the conversation,” says Mr Bryant.
“Email doesn’t do that, it’s quite a lonely medium.
Lee isn’t saying email (or email like) communication is dead, but that it is being pushed out of the way by more appropriate styles of open and flow-based communication tools.
Nathaniel Borenstein, co-creator of the Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) protocol, was also interviewed for this article – I do agree with his comment that the universal addressing that modern email support is a good thing, but that this is “not a definition of email.”
Unfortunately, we don’t yet have true universal addressing across social tools (even with OpenID, I’m sure most users will have identified themselves somewhere via an email account) and email continues to play a role as a personal identifier for using social tools. Similarly, into systems like CoachSurfing, use a physical snail-mail postcard as part of their user verification system.