Over 180billion emails are sent every day from over three billion accounts around the world. Sometimes it feels like they are all in your inbox! However I believe that relatively soon email will be largely replaced with more efficient communication methods just as mobile phones are on the way to replacing landlines.
Email's origins date back to the pre-internet days of the 1960's in technology first developed at MIT and despite the advances made over the years by Microsoft and Google, it is still very much an electronic form of traditional snail mail. It delivers a message to an inbox where it can sit amongst a sea of others - the sender does not know if it has been read and the recipient has very little chance of putting the message into a context they can understand.
The truth is that email actually constitutes a very poor medium for modern communication. The intensity, frequency and sheer number of conversations required these days means that email cannot cope with providing the context required for effective conversation. I wonder how many of those three billion emails are saying "I can't do noon - can we do 1pm?" or are messages chasing responses to emails that appeared out of the blue in the first place. All relentlessly piling into an inbox mostly organised simply by the time they arrived and without the opportunity for collaboration.
Of course there are other ways of communicating - messaging and chat services like Whatsapp or Hipchat can be effective ways of communicating with an internal team. Indeed when we were developing Skype in the early 00's it was the messenger function that really interested me the most - despite the main focus of the company being the VOIP product. However I don't think we ever really devoted enough energy to it and it always felt like unfinished business to me. A huge problem with most messenger products is that they are exclusive - you can't involve other people in the conversation who are not on the platform and therefore you end up with a series of different communication tools for different groups of people AND an inbox to deal with that is getting out of hand. If anything - it actually makes the problem worse.
We need to find something that can truly be effective for both internal and external communication. This is why I closely followed the progress of my former Skype colleagues who set up Fleep, a next generation messenger that can integrate email. I have since become an investor and Fleep has evolved further, providing a features list that includes pin boards and a way of letting you know who has seen your message and a unique ID that is email compatible so external people can use it to send you messages into Fleep via email.
In the property market they say that "location! location! location!" is the key. In effective communication the slogan should be "context! context! context!". I believe a platform like Fleep gives us the opportunity to free ourselves from the tyranny of our inboxes and enables us to organise our conversations in a more logical, efficient and coherent way.
The days of email being the "lingua franca" of electronic conversations are coming to an end.