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Is Email Dead as Our Main Online Communication Tool?

Since the rise of the Internet, email has become the main way people have communicated. It killed the traditional letter as the way people shared information. But are several new technologies killing the importance of email?

As The Wall Street Journal points out:

We all still use email, of course. But email was better suited to the way we used to use the Internet—logging off and on, checking our messages in bursts. Now, we are always connected, whether we are sitting at a desk or on a mobile phone. The always-on connection, in turn, has created a host of new ways to communicate that are much faster than email, and more fun.

Those new ways include Web sites that are already here, as well as technology that promises to build on the existing platforms. On Facebook, for example, you can post a status update to tell your friends what you are doing, eliminating the need for a personal email. You can post pictures, making the old technique of attaching and emailing photos to friends obsolete.

On Twitter, you can send your "followers" an instant update on your life, whether it's what you just ate for breakfast, or when your plane lands on your tropical vacation.

Google is currently testing a program called "Google Wave," which, among other things, allows users to drag and drop photos from a desktop, and enter text in real time.

While many say these sites enhance communication, others say it is simply just too much information. Sometimes you just want an email from a friend with one vital piece of information. You don't necessarily want to wade through all the junk on a Facebook page just to find it. And really, who needs a constant stream of inane information about people? Do you really care that a friend woke up cranky this morning?

Don't plan the funeral for email just yet.

The WSJ reports that in August 2009, 276.9 million people used email across the U.S., several European countries, Australia and Brazil, according to Nielsen Co., up 21% from 229.2 million in August 2008. That means email is still relevant.

But the number of users on social networking and other community sites jumped 31% to 301.5 million people.

"The whole idea of this email service isn't really quite as significant anymore when you can have many, many different types of messages and files and when you have this all on the same type of networks," says Alex Bochannek, curator at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

So what do you think? Do you think email is on its way out? Or do you think people will revolt against the "too much information" of social networking sites, and push to regain their privacy with one-on-one emails?


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