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TECH TALK: Email: Email Problems

June 26th, 2001 · No Comments

During the last 5-6 years, email has become a “mission-critical” business tool. Executives spend at least 1-2 hours every day in email. In many ways, email has become the “front-end”, the user interface to the Internet. But email still has certain problems.

Spam: A couple years ago, 80% of the email we received would be useful. Today, the percentage is more likely to be 20%. As email marketing has taken off and tools to send out email to large mailing lists have become available, just about anyone can send email to a large number of people – almost at no price. The problem of spam does not seem likely to go away any time soon. In the next few years, not only will the number of emails rise, but so will be the percentage of spam.

Cc: The fact that email is so easy to spend (and to the sender has no real cost) has meant that emails get sent and cc-ed, even though there may be no real reason. Rather than thinking about whether the recipient really needs to get the email, the approach has become that everyone should know (as if sharing knowledge absolves responsibility). This “occupational spam” includes joke e-mails, copying somebody unnecessarily and hitting “reply all” instead of targeting individuals.

Viruses: Email attachments have now become quite lethal due to the emergence of viruses as payloads. In the fast few years, on more than a few occasions, corporate messaging networks have been brought to their knees due to viruses sending out emails to the entire address books of individuals.

Storage: A significant portion of business communications is happening via email. This means that it is important to be able to archive messages for the future. In many cases, email is downloaded on the desktop, which makes storage the responsibility of each individual.

Search: One needs the equivalent of a Google for email. The search tools available with many of the email clients are quite limiting. The ability to search must go beyond just the headers and into the attachments.

Composing: The formatting available in most email clients is still quite limited. While it is easy to send HTML pages as attachments, it is still a challenge to compose better formatted email.

Notifications: A courier package can be tracked all the way through to delivery. Yet, emails have very limited tracking capabilities – one still doesn’t know (seamlessly across all mailing systems) on delivery of a message, or if it has been read or deleted.

Security: Most email communications is still open and unencrypted – it is estimated that only 10-15% email sent is encrypted. Sending open email is like sending business letters in unsealed envelopes. Besides, it is also possible to spoof the sender, so one can never be sure that the sender is indeed the person who you think it is.

Payment model: It is interesting that the cost of storage in email is borne by the recipient. On the sending side, there is only transient storage that is needed. So, assuming the bandwidth costs are the same, the recipient actually incurs greater costs than the sender. This problem is going to get worse as email size increases, especially with multimedia email.

Instant Messaging Integration: The email namespace is independent of the IM name space, and there is no integration between these two-related messaging applications.

Tags: Tech Talk

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