The End of E-mail?

I was reading Maggie Shiels’ blog on the BBC website earlier today. She wrote a post last Thursday about e-mail after Sheryl Sandberg, a senior member of staff at the social networking site Facebook put forward some ideas about the use of e-mail.

For her, e-mail is a dying form of communication. Speaking at the Neilsen Consumer 360 conference, she said…

If you want to know what you’ll be doing tomorrow, look at what teens are doing today.

Sheryl Sandberg

She added that only 11% of teenagers use e-mail, most prefer text messaging and social networks (such as Facebook).

Now, I have several thoughts about this:

  1. In order to have a Facebook account, you need to have an e-mail address.
  2. Most people communicating with me on Facebook are writing just one line at a time. Anything longer is usually done via e-mail.
  3. I can’t fill in a form using Microsoft Word and send it to someone on Facebook – but I can e-mail it to someone.

And in the comments on Maggie’s blog, Chris Wood highlights what we are talking about. Social networks, not business networks (and I’ve but the key part in bold text)…

I think the assumption that social networking is limited to kids is wrong. I know plenty of Facebook users who, like me, are the wrong side of 50. The plain fact is that it is a great way of staying in touch with friends, sharing experiences and photographs. Especially old friends who now live in the next county, country or continent.

Chris Wood

Just a few final thougts… which none of the social networks seem to have thought of yet.

If I’m logged in to Facebook I can only communicate with other Facebook users; likewise with Twitter, MySpace (which I don’t use) and Bebo (which I don’t use).

However, if I use Microsoft Outlook to read my e-mails, I can still e-mail someone using Mozilla Thunderbird, Mozilla Seamonkey, GMail, Yahoo! or Windows Live Hotmail (etc).

Likewise, the fact that I have a e-mail address doesn’t stop me from communicating with those using,,,,, or (etc).

Also, in order to send someone an e-mail, I can just go to their website and look up their address, type the e-mail and send it. If I want to message someone on Facebook, I have to log in, search for their profile, add them as a friend, wait for them to confirm that I’m a friend (which depending on how long they log in to their account could be a few minutes, or it could be a few days), then type the message and send it…

Its a little bit like saying “before I can send you an e-mail, you need to have my e-mail addresses in your address book before you even know I want to contact you“!

I’m not saying that Facebook is bad (see what you can do with it in the quote from Chris Wood above)… but what I’m saying is that at the moment its designed for communication between two friends, not between employers and employees, or buyer and seller etc.

Perhaps, one day in the future, once the social networking site designers have taken this information into account, then social networking will become one of the main ways of communication.

They may be issues they’re working on even now as you read this… but I don’t see social networks becoming used universally any time soon.

What are your views on this? Submit your comments below, or why not e-mail them to me on

Fred Hart

Stock Controller and Radio Presenter/Producer

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