Why do technologies become obsolete? Because something easier, cheaper, better (or sometimes just better marketed) comes along.
Is email becoming obsolete? There’s a new generation of internet users who don’t use email and probably never will, unless they are forced to use it at work.
Below are excerpts from an eye-opening article by Chad Lorenz. It appeared in Slate earlier this week, and it’s called “Teenagers are abandoning their Yahoo! and Hotmail accounts. Do the rest of us have to?”
I can still remember the proud moment in 1996 when I sent my first e-mail from the college computer lab. It felt like sending a postcard from the future. I was getting a glimpse of how the Internet would change everything—nothing could be faster and easier than e-mail. Ten years later, e-mail is looking obsolete.
Obviously, email isn’t technologically obsolete. The software still works and it’s updated and supported. What’s actually happening is nothing more than a classic generation gap.
If you are under the age of 25, you don’t use email. You might have an email address, but basically you ignore it. And you certainly don’t use it to keep in touch with your friends. Instead you use Instant Messaging (IM) or Facebook or Myspace.
Can we prevent email obsolescence? Chad doesn’t think so.
So, is the solution to browbeat these little rebels back in line and enforce mandatory e-mail usage? Good luck. Chances are, as usual, that the grown-ups will be the ones who are forced to adapt. Colleges have already thrown up their hands and created Facebook and MySpace pages to stay in touch with students.
My favorite line from the article: I realized that my agility with e-mail no longer marked me as a tech-savvy young adult. It made me a lame old fogey.
Ouch. Chad, as one old fogey to another, I feel your pain. Read the rest of Chad’s article (including links to supporting research) here.
P.S. Hey you kids get outta my yard!