Is Email dead?

COMMUNICATION | Email is junk mail in Ahmad Humeid’s dictionary.

I probably sent my first email a decade ago when a Jordanian company called NETS (now called Batelco) set up the first email service in Jordan. I loved it. Who wouldn’t love email. It’s free, instant global communication. It was like magic.

Ten years on I believe that email is dead. This might sound to some like an exaggeration. After all, email usage is growing and life without it is unimaginable for many individuals and businesses.

Being a free and open system has been email’s greatest advantage and disadvantage at the same time. ‘Free’, in this context, needs to explanation. What ‘open’ means, however is that anyone can set up an email and send messages to any email address on earth. Anyone, including those people who use email to indiscriminately market stuff to us: the spammers.

The latest statistics show that over 80% of all email traffic in the US is spam. If this does not mean that email as a communication system is dead I don’t know what does. Imagine a situation where only 20% percent of the paper mail or telephone calls you get are legitimate and the rest is simply people trying to push things on you (or even cheat you).

What is amazing, though, is that many people I meet have no or only a small, manageable spam problem.

For many others, like me for example, email is hell. Having been active on the internet for so long with the same email address makes me a typical victim of spam. I tried to fight back using a number of filters and I even considered using a service that doesn’t let mail through if the sender doesn’t confirm his or her ‘humanness’ after being ‘challenged’ by the service to click a web link. But all of this is just a hassle.

Do I want to upset a potential client (who’s name is not in my address book) by having a service challenge her before her email is let through? Do I want my ‘intelligent’ filter to hold an important email from a friend because it was deemed as possible spam (maybe because he used a curse word). Do I have to keep looking through suspected spam to pick out mail that shouldn’t have ended there?

Truly, the situation in unbelievable. Compared to instant messaging, Skype and SMS email is dismal.

The easiest solution would be for email to become a paid service. People sending a few emails a day would not be affected if the price of an email is, say, 1 cent. Spammers, who now send millions of messages from their PCs would think twice if they had to pay for each piece of junk they dispatched.

But making email a paid service has many problems too. What about legitimate marketers or publishers of newsletters who only send mail to people who have subscribed to their publications?

The other solution is for UN or at least some industry consortium to set up new rules and perhaps also global legislation for email. For example legitimate email senders would have to register themselves and get certified somewhere. I, as a recipient of email could then only accept email messages for certified parties.

I am sure that there are initiatives like that being cooked up, but even as an advanced internet user I am not being told about them.

Until the global internet industry and community can find a way to re-invent email, I’ll have to make do with the current dead and dysfunctional system.


7 Responses to “Is Email dead?”

  1. Hamzeh Says:

    You should have at least three email accounts. One for work, one for personal contacts and one that you use loosely on the internet (this will be your spam guard).

    This works perfectly for me. I receive absolutely no spam on my personal email account or my work email.

    This is not only a problem in email, I would say there is just as much physical junk mail as spam here in the US it’s ridiculous. Whereas with email you can sort of manage it like I do, in physical mail, you can’t. They distribute the junk mail to every single mail box in the neighborhood.

    Nice blog.

  2. hatem abunimeh Says:

    Email is the linchpin of the internet, it is the flagship,the fulcrum,the locomotive, the heart and soul that makes the people reach for their personal computers and their other electronic devices to retrieve their mail time and time again. It would have been a lot more palatable had you said that the email is being deluged with Spam, or the email is not as trendy as it used to be during the past decade or so, but to suggest that email is dead is an affront to modern technology. I think that email is alive and well and kicking. People are still enjoying it the same way they enjoyed it all along. I don’t know of any person that don’t check their email several times a day. Email is here to stay, it is not dead, it isn’t even sick, it is healthy and growing by leaps & bounds on daily basis. It did experience some rough patches about a year ago, but expeditiously enough new filtration systems, pop up stoppers, spy and ad wares, were installed and put a stop to the state of temporary chaos which the mail was going through. Nowadays, all mail services provided the necessary tool to make our mail safe and fun to work with, it is user friendly that doesn’t require any IT skill for any one to make use out of it. It is global, so no matter where on earth your loved ones live you can reach them by few strokes on your key board and a click by your mouse, most importantly, it is free, which means that you can send mail from now until dooms day without having to incur one cent for envelops or for postage cost.Confidentiality is also a factor in email, unlike the regular mail, email is less likely to be read by anyone other that party that is being sent it.

  3. Humeid Says:

    Email in it’s current format should be dead. It isn’t dead because people have to use it. Of course email is wonderful. But when over 80% of the ‘email system; in the world is carrying junk, you have to think of a fundamental way to fix this system.

    Hatem.. let us know what kind of filter you use.. That might be helpful.

  4. Basem Says:

    The end user of email will likely not be affected by the high percentage of spam mail floating on the net, only the ISPs, backbone carriers & service providers as it seems! after all and as previously suggested by reader Hamzah, one can set up an endless number of addresses, be it for the reckless browsing , filling nuisance web forms or for personal controlled-circulation communication…etc

    I am technically unaware of the cost components of carrying 80% unwanted spam around the net bared by the big guys… is it the cost of bandwidth it eats? The cost of the bigger machines they require to receiving such volumes? Or the sub-systems that filters and prevents them from reaching the end-user?

    I know that I pay a premium to my email service provider that covers a typical web and pop3/imap access, a not-so-generous mailbox space and a sophisticated as they claim system to prevent me eyeing nuisance spam…

    So in a simplistic elaboration, can we argue that the big guys came to an age where they have accepted this “deficiency” in the existing email system and willing to burden themselves with the cost of encapsulating it and mitigating its affects? and perhap make a premium money-generating –or hits generating- services while they’re on it!

    Maybe that corporates and organizations who host their own mail servers are genuinely suffering from this at a wider scale, and have to put-up with allot of systems to block this phenomena! But aren’t they also doing it with other aspects of the net, firewalls and anti-hacking stuff, why complain about spam then?

    On a side note, email was not flat-feed service when it kicked of in Jordan, we used to pay 5 piaster per 1 kilo byte inbound or outbound mail back in 95, but on the other hand, all the port 25s of early Jordanian ISPs mail servers were practically an open invitation for wannabe hackers to send unsolicited emails… it proved lots of fun .

  5. Global Voices Online Says:

    From the Jordanian Blogosphere

    The hottest topic this week on the Jordanian blogosphere is regarding the lack of political blogs on portal Jordan Planet. Firas of IHeartAmman claims that “You know something is wrong when bloggers are neglecting local political issues“. ...

  6. Samer Kurdi Says:

    Hi Ahmad,
    I used to receive 100+ spam emails a day in the old days of my Index POP3 account. I’ve been using Gmail for a year and I believe in that period I got a whopping total of 3 spam emails only.

    I do, however, have another web-based account that I use for various internet transactions/registrations, etc, as ‘Hamzeh’ suggested above. Consider, however, that now I have a brand new email address at work that I only use for work purposed and I’ve already started receiving spam and viruses to the tune of 3/4 a day.

    So, therefore, we conclude: Google will save email. If anyone wants a Gmail invitation you can write me at my hotmail account (kurdi_2@hotmail.com) and I will send you one.

    Samer

  7. yasmin Says:

    I encountered this problem before. The solution that worked for me are email accounts like spamgourmet.com (as far as I know, there are a couple other ones, but this is the one I’m currently using). This kind of email account allows you to “make up” a new emailadress every time you need one for the internet. It would be a “real” adress, because you actually receive the e-mails sent to it on your real emailadress. However, it works only for a limited number of mails you choose, up to twenty. After that number you receive no more emails on that adress. The Idea is not to prevent those who you gave the adress to from reaching you, but to stop spammers from getting your emailadress through a third party, like a website, a forum or a blog e. g.
    It might not be the best solution, but it worked for me. I receive much less than 1/4 of the spam I used to.
    However, I hope a better solution comes that makes email more secure and free of spam.
    By the way, I was in the US some years ago. The same problem, though not to the same extent, exists there even with fax and paper mail – One is sure to receive more Ads than letters!

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