Friday, December 18, 2009

The Death of E-Mail and the Wave of the Future

To many of us email plays an integral role in our everyday interactions whether they are business or personal.

For the last decade email has been the essential non-voice communication tool. A study of U.S. workers by Pew Internet & American life found that 88 percent checked their inbox at least once a day. Of those 70 percent checked several times a day.

According to a study by the American Management Association, U.S. workers spend an average of 1 hour and 47 minutes per day dealing with email.

Eight percent spent more than four hours a day dealing with email.

According to the Association for Interactive Marketing, small businesses spend 10% of their time on email management.

With all this time dedicated solely to email one has to wonder how anyone could so boldly claim the death of e-mail.

The reasoning is actually two-fold.

First, as younger people enter the work place they bring with them an appetite for instant gratification. Having lived through the social-media revolution they demand and expect instantaneous, real-time interaction. Their devotion to technologies such as SMS and Instant Messaging has led many of them to turn their backs on the “relic” that is e-mail.

In fact, new research shows that the growth rate of instant messaging through service such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft is far outpacing the growth in the use of e-mail.

Second, e-mail has several disadvantages and liabilities. Spam and viruses have not only turned off the younger generation of internet users, but have also caused security issues for small businesses and large corporations alike.

Furthermore, compared with the abilities of many Web 2.0 applications such as Facebook, Twitter etc. where interactions occur in the blink of an eye. Email can be ignored, or postponed until the receiver is ready, a huge disadvantage in the eyes of many.

The truth is however, for business people email is still an extremely necessary form of communication and social media services such as Facebook and Twitter while effective for certain types of communication lack a formal tone that is often needed in a business setting.

I don’t know how many people would feel comfortable updating their boss about a project by shooting him a tweet or posting a Facebook status.

Enter Google Wave. An appropriately named application as it is positioned to be the wave of the future and the proverbial noose around e-mail’s neck.

In essence Google Wave is a real time communication platform that combines a number of elements including email, instant messaging, web chat, social networking, wikis, and project management.

Google Wave introduces a host of “game changing” features that can significantly alter the way we conduct business.

Here are just some of the features Google Wave offers:

-Real-time: Every person involved in a Wave can see what someone is typing as they are typing it character by character.

-Extensions and Apps: Google Wave will introduce a number of extensions and applications that can be utilized in a variety of ways. Users can add a game of Sudoku to their wave, or an extension called Trippy in which users can, according to Google “co-create an itinerary including Lonely Planet recommendations organize, share, print or export to My Maps.” For businesses the Conference extension will prove to be extremely useful.

-Open Source: Allows plenty of room for expansion and innovation. Developers will be able to create new extensions and applications as new needs arise providing Google Wave with endless opportunities to improve.

-Embed Waves: If you have a great Wave that you would like to share with others waves can be easily embedded onto any blog or website.

-Real-time editing (Wiki): Every aspect of a Wave can be edited by anyone taking part in the Wave. Users can add items to a list, expand on ideas etc. all in real time.

-Playback: Enables users to go to any point of a wave and see what was said.

-Drag and Drop File Sharing: Take a file from your desktop, drag it into a Wave and each person in the Wave will have instant access to the file.

-Autocorrecting: Google Wave will automatically correct spelling mistakes, and can even decipher the difference between words like there and their.

Google Wave is currently in a preview phase and will certainly undergo many changes before it is released on a mass scale, but I have to admit Wave looks incredibly promising so far.

It seems very likely that in the not too distant future we will all be riding the Wave, and email will be left in its wake.

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