The Future of Email

Dan Gillmor asks where does email go from here?

Like so many other people, I’m losing my patience. E-mail may be essential, but it’s in danger of becoming more trouble than it’s worth. I’m finding ways to work around it.

Chances of fixing the spam problem anytime soon: next to zero.

Chances of stopping worms and viruses anytime soon: just above zero.

Chances of Microsoft doing the right thing voluntarily: just about zero.

Chances of more users and administrators getting with the program: better than zero, but not nearly high enough.

Chances of ISPs doing a better job: above zero, and growing.

It’s too soon to give up on e-mail. But the medium may become literally unusable if we don’t work collectively to be less vulnerable.

Dan’s solution:

First, I will not open e-mail attachments, period, unless I know the item is coming beforehand or have extremely good reasons to believe it’s not carrying an evil payload. If you want me to see a file such as a PDF document, post it on a Web site and let me know where to find it.

Second, I’m being more selective. I have several private e-mail addresses that I give out only to a small number of people for vital communications.

Third, I’m trying to get away from e-mail as much as possible in any event. My favorite way of communicating online is instant messaging. That doesn’t work when I’m not connected. But it’s much better than slogging through 500 unwanted messages in an inbox to find the few I need.

I’m also encouraging e-mail newsletter people to use the RSS (Really Simple Syndication) format that lets me opt into information sources in other ways and shuts out spammers.

Arnold Kling adds his voice to the email-virus-spam debate: “Reconfigure email servers so that a sender can either send email that includes attachments or send email to multiple recipients, but not both. If you want to send email to multiple recipients, you must use only plain text, with no attachments. If you want to send email to just one recipient, then use HTML and attachments to your heart’s content. If you want to send HTML and attachments to a lot of people, set up a web page, and use the email to point to the web page. Or use some other protocol.”

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.