A link to the MIMA “Blog Carnival” was forwarded to me by a friend of mine, and there are some really interesting questions being posed there (link in image below). Here’s my take on one of the issues raised in the Carnival Q&A:
2) Will Facebook, MySpace, and SMS marginalize the role of email in communication between friends, family, and peers?
For those of us who use the above tools (and particularly the techno-savvy generation enjoying the majority of their user base), it’s hard to imagine that Facebook and other social networking sites won’t have some impact on email communication. It’s very simple to login to your page, see what your friends and family are up to, and chat back and forth to each other (or “write on their walls,” “tweet,” etc.). Likewise it’s really nice to have the ability to share photos online and play interactive games, or even get a text when someone you’ve subscribed to makes a post.
However, I don’t think that email will be “marginalized” in any real way until the devices we use can more fully support and interact with these tools in a seamless way. The closest we’ve come thus far is the iPhone, which has applications for Facebook, Twitter, Loopt, etc. built in, all in a compact device that also takes calls, shoots photos and handles SMS. And now with the 3g iPhone, the additional layer of location-awareness (GPS) and context has been layered onto existing networks and interactions. It’s even possible (although not really practicable yet) to connect with friends based on where they are.
The key point to remember is that devices like the iPhone are nowhere near ubiquitous yet. To reach critical mass on any technology that would usurp email, we need prices to drop on enabling technology, and there needs to be a massive rush on new hardware. Email remains the consistent/constant technology that everyone from your boss to your grandmother has access to. Messages via email are easy, quick, and allow you to check messages on your schedule. And there’s nothing that will move the status quo on the horizon just yet — not until you can keep everything with you, and until these technologies can convice the mass population that being “always on” is a good thing.
So, will social networking tools marginalize the role of email? Not anytime soon — but we’re moving in that direction.