A week ago, I came home after a long night of drinking and wanted to vomit. It wasn’t the whiskey. It was the email. 

I had been gone approximately 6 hours at an event and subsequent after-party. I didn’t check my email the entire time. When I came home, I had over 50 new emails in my inbox (this doesn’t include the ones I automatically archive thanks to Gmail filters). 50-some emails all of which I needed to take action on in some form or another.


Undoubtedly aided by the aforementioned drinks, I hit “Select All” and debated hitting “Delete”. Not just for those 50-some emails. But for all 50,000+ that were sitting un-archived in my inbox. Then I thought better of it. Instead, I hit “Archive”.

Best thing I’ve ever done. 

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Email itself may not be the be-all, end-all of modern communications, but it has some major virtues that aren’t worth giving up:

  • It’s an open standard, so anyone can make a mail client that can talk to any other mail client.
  • It operates in plain text.
  • It can be easily encrypted for point-to point privacy.
  • It can be distilled into individual files or bulk archive files, making backups and restoration fairly easy.
  • Everyone can have a single address to which all mail arrives, but you can go further and use specific extensions (Gmail’s “+”) for automated messages.

What we don’t need is a means of communication to replace email. What really needs to happen is a major rethink of the clients we use to interact with our mail. Hotmail changed messaging with its browser client. Outlook delivered push messaging. Gmail introduced the importance of a good search along with the ability to multi-context a single message via labels (vs folders).

If anything happens to email, I’d say the best thing to do is to strip out as much of the formatting and HTML extensions that were added by “rich” clients. Another would be to have clients require private-key encryption as part of the setup process so email can’t be read in transit. Keep everything as simple as possible, and let clients focus on bubbling up useful features.

2 years ago
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