Three reasons why email still rules the Internet

Email is, besides all its flaws, still the cornerstone of the Internet. If you look at new successful services that are gaining traction, many of them are companies that use email in a smart, new way. The past couple of years, we’ve seen this from daily deals startups, like Groupon, GiltCity and Living Social. These companies take advantage of email’s ubiquity and deliver deals in your inbox. While you can view daily deals on an app (like ScoutMob or Tenka) or a browser, email is still the easiest, most inclusive and most memorable way to get discounts and save money. You get it once a day – it’s quick, digestible and habitual.

Even Twitter and Facebook  — communication channels in their own right – are heavy users of emails. Think about the email notifications you get when you have new followers, messages or events.

After all the talk about the shortcomings and impending death of email. it is still here and pretty much unchanged. Here’s why:

1. It’s where we spend most of our lives

The inbox is where people spend most of their Internet life. 107 trillion emails were sent on the Internet in 2010, the average number of email messages a day was 294 billion. It is one of the most effective places to prompt users to do something. While we may have profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and now Google+, it’s still people’s default communication platform for private and work use. In short, it’s where your eyeballs are most of the day. Especially now that mobile email is filling every small micro-boredom moment in the taxi, waiting by the bar and in the bathroom :)

2. It’s still our core identity online. 

An individual message commands more time and individual attention than most social media platforms. Whtespace  capitalizes on this fact by providing a way for people to share ideas and inspiration with more thoughtful curation. Although Facebook and Linkedin are getting very close, email is still our default form of identity on the web – particularly for real friends and professional circles. Personal email addresses are like our phone numbers only the people we care about actually know it. Furthermore, most websites anchor their interaction with you through email – it’s the way they keep you informed on changes, help if you’ve forgotten your password, etc. Because of its ubiquity, it helps consolidate and streamline communications into one channel.

3.  All emails are born equal and play with human curiosity. 

Our brains are amazing when it comes to filtering out information that is not relevant. Most eye-tracking heat maps of users looking at a normal web page will tell a clear story about users’ ability to ignore not just ads, but whole areas where ads normally appear. So far, emails are equal (besides auto filters and smart inboxes). While the subject line, sender and first line will give you some clue as to the content of an email, you won’t know if the email from your client is a message giving positive feedback on your last presentation or an angry diatribe until you actually open the email. It’s a big game of emotional email lottery. You never know what will appear.  This can trigger curiosity and a higher sense of alert.

So while other forms of communication will take more of your attention, email will be around for a while.

(blog post co-written with Melissa Andrada)



  1. ronnierocket
    August 15, 2011 at 6:25 pm — Reply

    I actually started my business on a telex machine (ordering import records for my record shop). The fax machine made my life much easier (even though I was practically the only one in Denmark owning one at first), and as an early e-mail adopter (so early that I actually faxed copies of the e-mail in the beginning just to make sure the recipient got it!) I know all about spending a lot of time in the inbox. However, for me at least, sending and receiving e-mails are like sending a letter with a tongue-licked stamp on it these days. The e-mail inbox is a ‘one dimensional’ communication space, where you don’t want to spend to much time. 80% of my communications have moved to the social space. With the arrival of Google+, I expect my Gmails to be ‘socialsed’ in some form any time soon. Sending and receiving e-mail is the most boring part of the internet. It is so slow. Why not IM or text? I think e-mail, IM and SMS will merge. Like on a Japanese mobile phone. The e-mail as we know it is an old fashioned letter. Slow and romantic. And hopefully not a FINAL NOTICE.

    August 17, 2011 at 8:47 pm — Reply

    Dustin Curtis Ways to contact me, in order of effectiveness: 

    in person, 
    Twitter DM, 
    Twitter reply, 
    snail mail, 

  3. Michael Gronager
    August 30, 2011 at 9:34 am — Reply

    Totally agree! The reason is that email is the only federated asynchronous communication technology around, and companies are extremely dependent of federated technologies – i.e. phone, fax, snail mail and… email. Rest is essentially not communication or social media but just entertainment ;)

  4. Dave Linabury
    February 19, 2013 at 4:27 pm — Reply

    107 trillion emails… of which an estimated 97% were unwanted spam* (BBC

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