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The Problem with Email

By Carl Sassenrath
CTO, REBOL Technologies
Revised: 1-Feb-2010
Original: 10-Feb-2001

This is an original position paper published in February 2001 that accurately predicted a major transition in the communication marketplace.

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While email is now widely accepted, it only represents an embryonic stage that will over the next five years (by 2005) develop into entirely new forms of communications that more directly and efficiently suit the needs of businesses and organizations.

Email was invented in the 1970's by and for researchers and university professors. Although email adoption has grown by orders of magnitude since then, it is essentially the same system that it was 30 years ago. As a system, email is similar to US postal delivery. It is a general delivery mechanism for anyone to send anyone anything.

A great deal of business communication and workflow is centered around email, but we question whether email is the ultimate long term solution for communication and workflow processes. While email is a good method for anyone in the world to contact you, that's also email's biggest problem. Most communication, both business and personal, does not come from just anyone, it comes from other members of your organization, partners, or team. It comes from "important people".

Email as a business communication mechanism has many inherent flaws:

If you consider email for managing workflow, it has a number of additional problems:

Email is adequate for communicating with the world-at-large, a general delivery mailbox, but most business and organizational communications is oriented toward a relatively small teams of working relationships. Using email to drive internal business workflow is like running a business based on receiving US postal mail as it arrives at the mailbox.

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