Email is still relevant

This is expanded from a slide I wrote a couple of years ago in a dagen@ifi talk for Oslo University about what I do at FastMail.  I answered the assertion “email is dead, social networking is the future” with the following points:

Compatibility

Just about every system out there can interact with email.

I have code I wrote over 10 years ago to process email. It still works. Try that with the API of your favourite social networking site.

Persistence and Immutability

I still have emails from over 10 years ago. I can still read them, check them against my memory.  Nobody else can change or delete them later – they are MY copy.

You can send attachments via email, and the links never go 404.

Privacy

Email is decentralised, and built on standards … mostly.

This means you can select a provider, or even host email yourself.  Once the email is on your server, nobody else can read it.  You’re not at the mercy of a single central authority, so you make the risk tradeoffs for yourself.

(there are some benefits to using your own domain here – so if your chosen provider turns evil, you can easily move.  We support hosting your own domain at FastMail)

Business – Orders/Receipts/etc

In any situation where you would normally use paper, the similar properties of email (immutibility and persistence) make it a worthy replacement.

(aside: the lack of reliable delivery authentication is a major reason why email hasn’t totally replaced fax – it’s the one major feature that fax has and email doesn’t)

Summary

Social networking is fine for the “fun stuff” – parties, cat pictures. For serious things though – email is still king.

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