email is still your best backup social network

We communicate through a host of applications using our own devices. In my phone I count 29 installed. Granted, not all of them are in frequent use, but all of them are installed for a reason: Some contact of mine is using some application, be it much popular, or less, or even something like Amazon Chime which you need to converse with AWS people.

Sometimes, infrastructures supporting those applications suffer outages and depending the userbase, pain gets expressed in Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, or even internal jokes like "Slack is down, let’s increase productivity until it gets up".

So it occurred to me, that even though every 5 years or so we see a new application claiming to solve texting, email is still the best backup solution:

  • even though it is mostly controlled by 5 big walled gardens, they are not one garden and you can always run your own with some varying success of compatibility if you wish to undertake the pain.
  • while I used to complain about "email not being FTP", it is still used as a file transfer mechanism.
  • while I used to complain about top posting in replies (I used to prefer inline replies), regardless of how ugly it may seem at times, you have a complete log of the communication history.
  • you can use your email store as document database (yes it was not designed for this, I hated the fact, but let’s move on; people search their emails to find stuff they remember being there).
  • while I used to complain a lot about HTML email, you still have the ability to at least send as plain or flashy emails as you like and they will be received and read (in the majority of cases) as you expect.
  • you are not confined to a single application for reading and sending email. People still write mail clients.
  • almost any booking / purchasing system you use sends you an email of what you transacted about. They do not seek your Skype, Messenger, Discord or what. They fall back to your best backup social network: email.
  • while it is not instant messaging, as I still tell people, most emails arrive soon enough to feel like it is.
  • it can be a 1:1 communication medium, 1 to many (a newsletter), or even many to many (mailing lists, Reply All).
  • spammers and other cyber villains still attack through it, so it is in wide use, even if it is not the cool kid in town.

I’ve come to terms with this kind of underground success: It does everything almost good enough and in the background. It is nobody’s first choice, but it is everybody’s common denominator because of the good enough factor.

Now if only I could persuade my children to fill the Subject: line when emailing me…

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