Email has been the most popular channel of communication on the Internet for many years. Around 300 billion emails are being sent every day. Nonetheless, many people these days say that email is an anachronism, having in mind the rise in popularity of instant messaging applications, social networks and video chat platforms.
In this article we will have a look at emails – how they developed through the years and whether they have a future, how they compare to social media and instant messengers, and what features you (usually) get as a part of the email service. This way, you can judge for yourself if emails are really a thing of the past, or if you will still need them in 2021.
- Short history of email
- (Standard) Email features
- Using emails – pros and cons
- Emails vs. Social media
- Emails vs. Instant messengers
- Emails vs. Video conferencing
- What ICDSoft can offer you
- So, should you still use emails in 2021?
Short history of email
Basic text and file sharing has existed for about 50 years. In the beginning, it was not reliable though, as different platforms and protocols were incompatible. Things changed in 1971 thanks to Raymond Tomlinson, a programmer working for ARPANET, а US government network. He introduced the first system that could send a message between different hosts connected to the same network. He introduced the ‘@’ sign that separated a username from a hostname and he is recognized as the inventor of the modern-day email.
1978 marked the birth of unsolicited emails when Gary Thurek sent a spam message to hundreds of ARPANET users. In 1982 sending emails between different mail servers became possible as the Simple Transfer Mail Protocol (SMTP) was invented. The IMAP and POP protocols were created in the following years, giving rise to the first modern-day email clients, like MSMail – the predecessor of Outlook and Exchange, which was created in 1988.
In the 1990s, the first webmail clients appeared, file attachment support was added and WYSIWYG editors were introduced. As more and more people owned a computer and were connected to the Internet, the use of emails increased significantly. It is estimated that there are more than 3.8 billion email addresses today and this is still the preferred communication for billions of people and businesses all around the world.
(Standard) Email features
An email service essentially allows you to send and receive messages using an email client. The vast majority of email providers add a number of additional services to make using their email service easier and more appealing to users. Below, you will find some of these services. You probably take their availability for granted, but some providers offer only a limited number of these services, while others change separately for them. You will also not find most of these services, if any, in instant messaging platforms.
- Filters for automation. If you want to block messages that contain a certain word or move messages from a certain sender to a separate folder, you can easily do that using email filters. Usually there are lots of options and combinations to choose from, which gives you much more flexibility compared to any instant messenger. Filters can be set up either by the email provider, or in an email client. They allow you to automate certain workflows in easy and manageable way.
- Auto-responder. If you are out of the office for some time or you want to let people know that you have received their message, you can use the auto-responder function. Usually, you can select a period or a number of times the auto-respond message should be sent to a given person.
- Spam protection. This is a service any mailbox needs, since spam has become a very serious problem in the past decade. Some providers offer basic protection, others offer a more advanced protection that recognizes patterns and “learns” how to filter spam more efficiently based on the way you handle certain messages.
- Email forwarding. If you receive a message in one mailbox, you can forward it to another automatically. Surprisingly, this seemingly simple service is sometimes available only if you pay for it.
- Catchall mailbox. Any message sent to an email address @your-domain.com that does not exist will end up in this mailbox if such an option is enabled. Even if somebody misspells your email address, you will still receive their message.
Other examples of services that are often optional/paid are backups and antivirus protection.
Using emails – pros and cons
If you wonder whether you should start/continue to use emails nowadays, here are a few things to consider:
- Official correspondence. Emails are still considered an official means of communication, so if you want to contact some company or the local authorities, for example, you will have to do that by email, not by commenting on some social media status.
- Can be accessed from anywhere. More or less all email providers offer webmail access, so all you need to check your email is a web browser (desktop or mobile) and Internet access. You can also use any email client like Outlook, Thunderbird, Apple Mail and a number of mobile mail applications.
- Can be accessed at any time. We mention this specifically as some instant messengers will not allow you to use their web-based versions if the mobile application on your phone is not connected. This can greatly limit your communication if your phone stops responding or its battery is depleted, for example.
- Messages can be threaded. If you don’t want to mix different topics, you can send several messages to the same person, so you can easily keep track of different issues. This will make keyword search easier as well. In comparison, instant messengers allow you to send all messages only as a single continuous conversation.
- Easy to personalize. If you want to send a newsletter, you can send a personal message to every customer, not mentioning the different layout options you have to create a visually pleasing message.
- Can be integrated with other tools. While emails are a separate service, they can be easily integrated with calendars or to-do lists, for example. If you receive an email with your boarding pass, for instance, some email providers will add the flight information directly to your calendar.
- Send emails to multiple recipients anonymously. If you create a mailing list, you can easily contact a group of people by sending a single message. You can also send a blind carbon copy of any message to another person. While you can simply create a group in an instant messenger to do the same thing, everybody in the group will know who the other recipients are and it will be more difficult for them to reply to you personally instead of sending a group message.
- Signatures / identity. More or less all email clients (desktop and webmail) allow you to add a signature that will be added automatically in the end of every message you send. It can include your names, business information or even a logo, helping you to boost your brand awareness and recognition. In addition, you can easily create aliases for different departments, each one with its own, unique signature.
- Reach more people. Most people who use online services, have an email address. You can easily communicate with friends, customers or businesses from all around the world. In contrast, different social networks and instant messengers are available and/or popular only in certain countries.
- Spam. This has been an ever-growing problem as millions of spam messages are being sent every day. Sooner or later, you will either receive some unwanted messages, including ones that may try to trick you into submitting personal information, or you may miss some legitimate emails if your anti-spam protection is too strict. Find out how to recognize phishing emails in our article:
- You should know the recipient email address. You cannot simply search by name as you can do on social media.
- Limited delivery confirmation. When you send an email, you can request to receive a confirmation that the other side has received and/or opened your message. If they have blocked sending out such information in the settings of their email client, though, you will have no idea whether that person ever saw your message.
- Some messages may not be delivered. Although this is not that common, it does happen every now and then. A message may get filtered as spam or a mail server may have been blocked by some Internet provider. If you are the sender, you may not know your message was not delivered. If you are the recipient, you will never know somebody tried to contact you.
Emails vs. Social media
While there are people that compare the two services, emails and social media accounts should be regarded as two completely different things. You can easily share an email address in person, on a business card or even over the phone. If you have to do the same thing with a social media account, you will have to spell the full address as some social platforms add dots and numbers to the account URLs by default. Anybody will remember email@example.com, for example, but not social-network-example.com/some-name.192.
Following friends and businesses on social media is easy – whether it will be status updates, images or something else. Contacting them, however, is not. If you have a question about a product/service, you can contact the vendor in the comments section of some image or status, if comments have not been disabled. If you have some issue that requires investigation or you have to provide personal information, however, you cannot post anything publicly, not mentioning that such comments cannot be tracked if the issue will require more time to get resolved. In this regard, social media are no match for emails. The latter give you easy tracking and privacy, and allow you to add as much content as needed.
One important advantage of emails over social media is that you are in control of your communication. You will not depend on a large multi-national corporation with dubious community standards, risking your comments or any content people send you to be flagged as spam, reported as improper, removed or even provided to third parties with or without your knowledge or consent.
- Emails are easy to share
- Contacting a person or a company is easier
- Messages are easy to track
- You are in control of your communication
Emails vs. Instant messengers
As their name suggests, instant messengers allow messages to be sent and received right away. This includes not only popular one-to-one platforms, but also website live chats or website integration of messenger clients.
One advantage of using such an option is that there is no delay due to incorrect routing or spam filters, as it may happen with some email messages. Nonetheless, instant messengers (both mobile apps and website live chats) are usually used for more casual communication such as personal talks, informal project coordination or quick support if a client has a question, for example.
Messages are much harder to track in the continuous conversation flow of instant messengers and there is no option to separate them in different threads. This is why, if you communicate with the same person, these applications are not suitable for any communication that requires more time to investigate some issue or anything that is more official. In addition, instant messengers do not have folders, message flags or signatures – things that allow you to manage your conversations easily and to keep track of various issues without any hassle.
- Emails are a formal communication channel
- Messages are easy to track
- Sorting and tracking emails is much easier
Emails vs. Video conferencing
During the past couple of years, a lot of companies started using video conferencing as an alternative to working in the office. Opinions that video chats will replace office interaction, including email communication, quickly emerged. This is the only reason we mention this type of software as applications such as Zoom or Teams became quite popular. They cannot be any real alternative to emails, though, as they can be used only for one-on-one communication or a single group chat. They use a chat messaging system; thus, they don’t allow any issue being discussed to be tracked or any official communication to be exchanged.
If you need video calls in your day-to-day matters, but you also want to use emails, you can use a collaboration suite such as Nextcloud. The application is an all-in-one solution for your business and it features video calls, file sharing, an email client, an online office suite and more. If you want to check out what Nextcloud can offer you, it is available with all our hosting plans.
- Emails allow contacting multiple groups of people simultaneously and independently from each other
- Email communication is easy to sort and search through; video calls have no written history
What ICDSoft can offer you
We know how important emails are for both personal contacts and business communication. This is why, we offer a professional service that comes with a lot of features. With a few clicks, you can create an unlimited number of mailboxes with generous quotas (up to 1024 GB for our Ultimate plan) and access them using a couple of webmail clients or your favorite desktop/mobile client.
One of the most important features of our email service is that we back up all emails unconditionally twice a day and we keep the backups between 7 and 15 days, depending on the plan you use. This means you will not lose any personal or business email no matter what. If you add our optional Extended Backups upgrade, you will have access to a couple of additional monthly backups for a period of 12 months.
Our backup system is very flexible, so you can even restore the content of one mailbox into another – if you hire a new colleague to handle some project, for example, and you want to provide them with a copy of your emails.
Every mailbox comes with certain features by default, at no extra charge, while some companies provide them at an additional cost. They include:
- Antivirus protection.
- Powerful anti-spam protection that self-learns what messages to filter based on your actions.
- Delayed delivery notifications to find out if your message has been delivered or not. This option works at server level and it is independent from the delivery notifications in email clients.
- Downloadable on-demand backups of any mailbox of your choice and the possibility to restore the content of one mailbox to any other one in the account.
So, should you still use emails in 2021?
Yes, you should and there is no doubt about that. No matter how easy to use or popular social media and instant messengers are, emails are still the preferred method of communication for anything different from a chat with a friend or a casual question. If you want to keep track of your communication, to sort all conversations in separate threads or folders, and to be able to search through your content, emails are your only option.