How much do you really know about one of the most important Internet applications ever made?
The evolution of email started almost 50 years ago. The first email system called MAILBOX was used at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1965, created to send messages to various users of the same computer. As computers began to communicate with each other via networks the sender and the receiver both needed an address, and so, back in the 1971, Ray Tomlinson used the @ symbol to denote sending messages from one device to another.
The electronic mail address was born. And the rest is history: in 1976 Queen Elizabeth becomes the first head of state to send an electronic mail message, in ’78 first electronically sent advertisement is published, over the government and university network in the USA, in ’82 the word “email” is used for the first time and Scott Fahlman created the first smiley :).
Today there are nearly 3.9 billion accounts, expected to grow to over 4.9 billion by the end of 2017; business email accounts total 929 million mailboxes. Global mailboxes are divided between 75% of consumer email accounts and 25% of corporate email accounts. The world’s email traffic amounts to almost 300 billion emails sent per day, meaning that almost 3 million emails are sent every second.
In the last few years the new email market has emerged: the mobile market. Its growth can be attributed to the increasing number of mobile users accessing their email accounts from mobile devices, mostly smartphones and tablets. Today there are 730 million mobile email users, and by the end of this year more people will be reading their emails on smartphones and tablets than on desktop computers.
We use today our mobile devices for web browsing, email sending/receiving, shopping, gaming, music listening and also as camera, alarm clock, data storage and GPS. Oh, and sometimes we use it to make a phone call :). All major web sites, and the emerging ones, developed their mobile version and new email communication strategies, since the users can now be reached anytime, anywhere. Read/write techniques on mobile differ from desktop ones: desktop email users spend significant amount of time reading and writing messages, while mobile email users typically focus on most important messages, responding briefly and leaving those that require more detailed attention for their desktop devices. Mobile email is still “work in progress”, as strategies, design and copywriting are adapting to the new receiving and reading environments.
The corporate world is still dominated by the email as a basic form of communication. On the other hand, despite a growing number of consumer email accounts and users, social networking sites, instant messaging, mobile IM, and text messaging are more used for instantaneous communication with family and friends.
In the ever changing virtual landscape of our world we are entering the era of Social media dominance, threatening to replace the traditional websites and emails. But can we really say it all in just 140 characters? Value theory states that if something has no market value (air and water for example), it is often taken for granted. Email, hopefully will not suffer a similar fate. After all, it still remains one of the most important Internet application ever made.