I asked a couple of weeks ago what people like or hate about email. Here's a summary of the responses. I admit the summary may be tainted by my current thinking about re-inventing email.

Like

  • It's not real time. Sender and recipient do not net need to be participating in the communication at the same time. The sender can take their time to craft their message, the recipient can take their time to ponder on the message and how to respond.

  • It's established, ubiquitous.

  • It's de-centralized.

  • It's built on top of well-known data formats and protocols, and data can be stored locally under user control, and is highly portable. There are a variety of client software to choose from.

  • Separate discussions are kept separate.

  • Formatting, attachments, and lenght is flexible.

  • Mailing lists can be archived publically.

  • One can have many accounts, and people comprehend this.

  • Subject lines.

  • Email providers are neutral, commodity entities. Choosing one doesn't imply membership in a community.

Not like

  • Unreliable for communication, often due to bad anti-spam.

  • People sending one-line replies that don't add actual value or that miss the point entirely.

  • Encryption, security, privacy, rich media content, formatted messages, etc, are all built on top of older protocols, often resulting in unfortunate consequences.

  • Top quoting.

  • De-facto oligopoly.

  • Spam.

  • Abuse.

  • Configuring and administering email servers is complex.

  • Filters and organisation of email is often difficult. The tools provided are not always well suited for the task.

  • Threading is unreliable.

  • Email addresses are too tightly tied to your identity.

  • Searching is often inadequate.