Sunday, February 25, 2007

Is E-Mail Dead?

I recently asked my learners if they could only have one of either e-mail or instant messaging (IM), which one would it be? The answer across a total of more than 120 learners was almost unanimously in favour of IM.

When I asked them why they made their choice, I got several answers:
  • "E-Mail is too slow..."
  • "IM is more like a real conversation..."
  • "I always get an answer with IM. Some people ignore e-mail.."
  • "IM is easier to use..."
  • "It's easier to share files with IM..."
  • "IM is on every computer. My E-Mail client isn't..."
Interestingly enough, I have always seen e-mail as an asynchronous tool, and IM as a synchronous one. Many of my learners actually use IM in an asynchronous manner, leaving it open all the time and getting back to a conversation when they can. This use of IM was reinforced by a friend of mine who has told me that her children so the same thing.

The lack of immediacy and not knowing if anyone was there at the other end of the "conversation" seem to be the two biggest reasons why e-mail is falling out of favour. Now that there are secure, business quality IM systems on the market , it will be interesting to see if e-mail is truly a technology that will go the way of the dodo, to be replaced by the more immediate and intimate IM tools. Hmmm...

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