Recently, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said that email will eventually become an obsolete form of communication. Her reasoning was that teenagers are using email less and less (only 11% do) and using things like SMS and social networking much more. She also mentioned that teenagers are a good indication of what kind of trends will appear in the near future. I do agree with that, but I can’t say that I believe email will disappear.
One thing Sandberg forgets to mention is that these teenagers are not using SMS and social networking for work; in fact it’s quite the opposite. They are using it to keep in touch with friends and organize parties; not to get actual work done. When we want real work done, Facebook and other social networking sites are probably the biggest distraction from it. Also, when a teenager is looking for a job, the last thing they want to do is give their employer their Facebook and Twitter account to get in contact with them; email is the most personal, safe, and easiest form of communication up till now and it remain that way for a lot longer.
This is very similar to how post-mail is still incredibly important to our daily lives. Once email became a standard form of communication, it was predicted that we’d never get letters in the mailbox ever again. And still, to this day, we still get some of the most important papers in the mail. The only difference between the email prediction and this? The post-mail prediction actually made sense since it was a direct overlap of purpose; Facebook and Twitter are not even close to replacements of email. Most large companies have blocked social networking sites; the same ones that are supposedly going to “replace” email.
The only way a new product/paradigm can cause an older to obselete is if it does the exact same thing in a better way (faster, cheaper, etc.). If there are any differences, the new one may take away from the older, but it will not replace. As my brother would put it: “The plane didn’t take away from the train, and the train didn’t make the car obsolete. The CD made the floppy disc obsolete though”. Something to think about.
What do you think? Are social media sites going to take over email?