close up of someone's hands typing on a sticker-covered laptop
PHOTO: neonbrand

For years people have been writing about how email is going away, that this app or that system would replace it, many of which have claimed to be “the email killer.” In the last 10 or so years, we have heard that Tweeting would surely replace email. Why email when you can quickly send a Tweet? Then Facebook was going to take over — you could just message someone on Facebook or post to a Facebook group, so no need for email, right?

But email persisted.

Nearly every account you have online wants an email address. They need to get in touch if there is an account problem, billing issue, or to email you product updates and special offers. That SaaS you just signed up for doesn’t want to WhatsApp or Slack you your password or special offer.

Can SMS Texting or WhatsApp Replace Email?

SMS texting or WhatsApp are unlikely to be viable options for businesses, unless you are asking a short question. Nobody wants to text answers to deep questions about their latest business deliverable. Additionally, if you text a link to customers they'll have to re-type it to visit the link from their desktop or laptop. Customers would much rather receive an email which would allow them to simply open and follow the link.

When you need to write decent business correspondence or a long catch-up note to a friend, it's likely you'll seek out a device with a real keyboard to compose an email. You are unlikely to tap all of that out on your phone unless you have no other choice.

Related Article: Why Email Remains the King of Communication

How About Slack and Collaborative Messaging?

Even Slack uses email. It has a feature where it will email you messages you missed when you were offline. You can opt out, but then you might miss something important. And what’s the best way to ping you with something important in general or in this moment? Email.

Slack doesn’t offer to call you or WhatsApp you. Slack stays in its own system or uses email to let you know that someone messaged you, possibly looking for time-sensitive information.

Related Article: Why Email Still Lingers in the Collaboration Tool Mix

Project Management Systems?

From Teamwork to Basecamp to Asana to Aha, there are endless product and project management systems available. They create walled gardens where work and projects are managed, discussions are had, tasks are monitored. These also rely on email. You can get an email as people reply to your messages or when they tag you. Email is still the best way to get people’s attention.

Does an Ecosystem Without Email Exist?

Years ago, a project management system claimed it was going to eliminate the need for email. The premise was, you would work all day in the project management system, therefore no more need for emails.

Of course, you signed up for the system with an email address.

The vendor of this project management system soon learned you can’t really eliminate email. People don’t have the PM system open all day long. They miss information, updates and messages, which are then emailed to them to make sure they're aware.

Related Article: Can Chat Over IMAP Challenge WhatsApp and Slack? 

'Sorry I Missed Your Message'

To free ourselves entirely from business email, we would need to stay logged in to every system we’re a part of and check if anybody is messaging us or replying to us. We’d have to have all notifications set to “on” and notice all of these notifications, badges and sounds. We’d need to be logged into all of these from our phones so when we step away from our desks we'd know people are looking for us. 

If this is what being free of business email requires, no thanks. I'll take an email from the system if something important happens in the walled garden any day.

By the way: If that system you signed up to emails you when you miss an important message, reply, update or private chat? It’s not an email killer, no matter what it says.

Improve the Email Experience: Write Shorter Emails

People who claim they want to get rid of email aren’t eliminating communication. They’re shifting it elsewhere: text messages, WhatsApp, Tweeting, group forums or online messengers. You might consider these micro-emails. They are asynchronous typed communications that wait for you to pick up the messages or notify you that “you have mail” in this other micro-form.

As attention spans get shorter and typing happens more and more on phone keyboards, emails are likely to get shorter. But they are unlikely to go away any time soon. We rely on email too much and though many have tried, so far there is no real replacement.