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Email is the new Fax

Do you see this picture when you sign-in to your Gmail account? 

I see it every single time I sign-in to Gmail, no matter the speed of connection. At some point this started happening to my Gmail account a year or so back and every time I log-in, it gets bad. Gmail is my preferred account and I have around 10000 emails in my inbox, which is not a whole lot. I love to clean my inbox and organize it as much as possible. All the marketing, forums, registered mails are deleted rather than just sitting there. I had plenty of filters before, but when google introduced 6 tabs, I decided to go simpler and just use the default tabs. It is working well so far, but the lag and that picture still appears every single time.

But this post if not about Gmail or how slow it has become. It's about email and I can positively say that Gmail/email has become less important in my personal life. Last year Google introduced a nice little dashboard service to let you know your email activity for the week/month. Each month I look at it and I see a decline in email conversations. The top 5 email senders are from service providers or forums or social sites. The real people that matter are no longer in top 5. This is my use case and I am not a heavy user or in an industry where PR people are haunting me or trying to sell a product. I am in enterprise market and I don't get emails from a lot of unknown people. I am glad about that :-)  

Not so long in the distinct past, attaching photos in an email was the norm. I used to do that. I used to receive 100s of emails about nice post card size pictures with 2-10MB size emails from my friends. All were forwards from someone I didn't know and used to take a lot of time to download from the mail server. I don't think anyone does that kind of emails anymore. Then there were conversations over emails, especially when two people were in different timezones. Each threaded conversations used to span days and Gmail made it so much better. Today, the post card size pictures are on Facebook. Personal pictures on Instagram/Facebook, Google+ or Dropbox or any popular messaging services. The conversations have moved outside Gmail. The only time I use Gmail is to see my online orders from amazon or shipping details or airline tickets or Amtrak tickets. It's a placeholder for bank statements to credit card statements to anything else. Then Gmail is used for some authorized documents like contracts or sending resumes  here and there, just like Fax was not so long ago. Don't get my wrong Google is trying hard to make it personal with Calendar, Drive, Chrome, G+ integration and other Google properties, but Gmail/email as a service is no longer the center piece of my personal life. There is a lot of sensitive information, but it's not personal anymore. I don't converse with my friends on Gmail as I used to. I don't attach pictures from Gmail anymore. I don't see a reason to use email/Gmail for personal reasons anymore. It's become the fax service for me. It's the paper statements pre internet days that we used to receive and store in files and folders. Gmail has become that for me.

What has replaced Gmail for me? Conversations.

Communications have been getting shorter and shorter and 140 characters are the new norm. Short text messages or other messaging platforms have replaced personal email conversations for me. It is simple, more faster and easier to be managed from a mobile device. It's sole purpose is to transmit a message to recipient or a group in the most efficient possible. My main messaging service is not from Google (Hangout) or Facebook (FB Messenger) or Apple(iMessage) or Twitter. It's from WhatsApp. It has changed the game for me and it's a perfect application for my use. Why WhatsApp stuck is hard to say, but it must be something to do with where I come from. I grew up in India and I believe 90% of the urban population uses WhatsApp there. There are more people using WhatsApp and using it creatively and for business purpose. It's cross-platform and exists on all the major platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, Symbian and the Nokia Asha (S40) ). It doesn't have a desktop presence, and it doesn't need too. It's a pure mobile play. It's not a video conference service or for that matter trying to deviate for anything else. It's a mobile messaging service and all the major platforms are covered. Messaging service is where we are heading for now and I don't see that changing in the near future. However I do see few things changing with messaging services.

Here is what I see in the near future.
  • Messaging services can be the "Official" form of communication. It has the phone number and the real names associated with that service
  • More apps and/or services will start using Messaging services as the preferred notification apis
  • In few years, I can see carriers dropping SMS as a service from their plans. Mobile OS will provide the options for selecting a default text message
  • More people will refrain from changing their phone numbers as their digital lives will be tied to a whole lot more service
  • I also don't see any one major communication service to rule the roost
Email service has been a boon for many. It has closed the gap between two connections. Every 10-15 years a service takes the center stage and rules that medium. Email as a service has transcended it's prime and as we move to new form of communications, the duration of staying power of the medium will shorten. Messaging services have already started the upward movement and it won't be long before it transcends and give way to new medium of connection.


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