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
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    Project Coordinator/Order Entry, Security Cleared

    £100 - £110 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Ham...

    Senior Digital Marketing Executive

    £35000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

    Junior Developer- CSS, HMTL, Bootstrap

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading company within the healthcare ...

    Junior Web Developer- CSS, HMTL

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading company within the healthcare ...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz