Are we facing the death of email?

First the Twitterati logged off. Now a high-tech office has abandoned it altogether. So is the writing on the wall for our most popular form of communication? Adam Sherwin gets the message

Imagine it: a life freed from the drudgery of deleting an inbox full of "unbeatable offers" and the latest missive on paper clips from head office. Email could follow the telex into the dustbin of communication tools we have loved and discarded if Thierry Breton, CEO of the information technology services company Atos, is a guide to the future.

Breton is to ban his staff from sending each other emails, complaining that they waste time and are outmoded. Only 10 per cent of the 200 electronic messages his employees receive per day turn out to be useful, Breton claims. "The deluge of information will be one of the most important problems a company will have to face [in the future]. It is time to think differently," he claimed.

Internal email will be phased out inside 18 months at Atos. The 75,000 staff will instead use instant messaging and chat-style collaborative services inspired by social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Atos staff used to spend between five and 20 hours a day dealing with email, but use of Breton's replacements has cut its use by up to 20 per cent, the firm claims.

His strategy has already been adopted by teenagers, who are shunning the now middle-aged email, which was first developed in 1971. Email use is down 31 per cent among the 12-17 age group this year, with a further 21 per cent slump among those aged 18-24.

Mobile Instant Messaging (IM) services such as Blackberry Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger, designed to facilitate low-cost, real-time communication around each X Factor performance, have supplanted ponderous email for the tech-savvy next generation. Mobile IM users are predicted to exceed 1.3 billion worldwide by 2016.

It's a development which Mark Zuckerberg sought to capitalise on with Facebook Messages, the social network's "modern messaging system", which merges text messages, IM and email into a single interface for 750 million users. "High school kids don't use email, they use SMS a lot," the 27-year-old technology pioneer said. "People want lighter-weight things like SMS and IM to message each other." For users, IM offers the immediacy that an email, often left unread, cannot.

However, if those teens are fortunate enough to find jobs, they are likely to still find themselves enmeshed in email's spam-blighted, sclerotic grip. The proportion of companies sending more than 50,000 emails each month has gradually increased in the last four years, from 40 per cent in 2007 to almost two thirds (60 per cent) in 2011. Spam still accountsfor an estimated 89 per cent of all emails.

Tim Walters, senior analyst at the technology research company Forrester Research, said: "Email is disruptive, wastes a great deal of time and it's miserable as a collaborative tool. But it's still used daily by 85 per cent of workers." He added: "Email isn't a beast to be killed. Sometimes it's the most appropriate tool for communication. Other timespeople send them thoughtlessly or to coverthemselves at work. And in government, emails have much greater potential for future discovery than IM."

What could replace email as a hassle-free, more collaborative communication tool? Yammer, a micro-blogging "Facebook for business" which allows groups of employees to share ideas through private communication, is now used by more than 80,000 firms.

Breton has introduced the Atos Wiki, which allows all employees to communicate by contributing or modifying online content, and Office Communicator, the company's online chat system which allows video conferencing, file and application sharing.

If email is dying, it will be a lingering demise. Without a ready audience through email, deal-a-day website Groupon would not have built a network of 143 million subscribers. More than 107 trillion emails will be sent this year, while the IM industry is hampered by fragmented services whichdo not communicateeach other.

But the Instant Messaging Generation Y, when they break into the workforce, are likely to demand new, liberating communication tools and free us from the web of email despair. Mr Walters said: "The Atos directive is working because the average age of their employees is 35 – it reflects their young workforce."

How to switch: The alternatives replacing email

Twitter

Widely used for newsgathering, broadcasting and simply passing time, but has not become a major communications tool, although it does have a private messaging service.

Facebook

What unites most users is that it is a personal communications tool, rather than one to be used at work.

Google Docs

Create a document, save and publish it and allow people to share and edit it: simple and effective. Could be used to post messages to large numbers of people at once.

BBM/WhatsApp

Instant messenger services are already widely used; the newer version is mobile instant messaging apps.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

    £24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

    Marketing Account Manager / Client Liaison Manager

    £25 - 32k DOE: Guru Careers: A digital-savvy Marketing Account Manager / Clien...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Executive

    £23-30k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking bright Business Developmen...

    Inside Sales Manager – SaaS based solutions

    25-30k + Comms + Benefits: Sphere Digital Recruitment: A rapidly expanding tag...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

    "I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
    Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

    11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

    Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
    Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

    Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

    The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
    Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

    The school that means business

    Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
    10 best tablets

    The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

    They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
    Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

    Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

    The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
    Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

    Pete Jenson's a Different League

    Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
    John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
    The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

    The killer instinct

    Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
    Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

    Clothing the gap

    A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

    The Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain