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Facebook Thinks Email is “Probably Going Away”

Could Facebook Even Survive Without Email?

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Facebook thinks email is dying. Classic. How many times have we heard this now? Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg gave a speech at the Nielsen Consumer 360 conference recently, essentially claiming as much.

Do you think email is dying? Comment here.

"In consumer technology, if you want to know what people like us will do tomorrow, you look at what teenagers are doing today, and the latest figures say that only 11% of teenagers email daily. So email (I can’t imagine life without it) is probably going away. So what do teenagers do? They SMS and increasingly they use social networking." (hat tip to WebGuild.org)

First off, Facebook couldn’t exist without email. You need an email address to sign up and to log-in. Many of us rely on email for notifications from Facebook to know when someone has sent us a message, commented on our posts, invited us to an event, tagged us in a photo, etc. In fact, I’d be curious to see how frequently the average Facebook user would come back to Facebook daily without email notifications.

Facebook Wants Your Email Address Too

Email lubricates social interactions on Facebook, and I’d be very curious to see how successful Facebook would be without any email integration. I suspect it would die.

To be fair, Sandberg was looking to the future, and not the present when she made this claim. She even said that she couldn’t imagine life without email. It’s interesting, because Facebook is in some ways helping keep email relevant for the reasons mentioned above (though email certainly doesn’t need Facebook’s help to stay relevant).

Facebook requires you to use email to sign-up and log-in, but we are seeing more and more open protocols being used around the web for ID authentication. There are also not-so-open protocols in use, like Facebook Connect. I can log-in to a wide variety of sites/apps with my Facebook ID, but I can’t log-in to Facebook with anything other than my email address. If Facebook thinks email is dying, does that mean it will adopt some other open authentication protocols? Don’t these protocols generally come back to having an email address in the first place anyway?

We’ve written about why social media isn’t killing and will not kill email several times in the past. I don’t want to rehash all of the same points here, so I’ll simply reference a couple of these articles:

- 10 Reasons Social Media isn’t Replacing Email
- Spam Will Not Keep You Away from Email

The popularity of specific social networks comes and goes, but email has been around for a while, and has really shown no signs of going anywhere. Here’s something to consider – how many years has your inbox been flooded with spam? Has it caused you to use email any less? Granted, Facebook does continue to grow, even in the face of massive privacy concerns, but that’s hardly an indication that it could replace email. Sandberg didn’t suggest Facebook itself would replace email, but that SMS and social networking in general would. We’ll see. If Facebook hopes to be a significant part of that replacement on the social networking end, they’re probably going to have to play a little nicer with the open web movement.

I’ll come back to the conclusion we always reach. There is room for both email and social networks. Just like there is now, there will be in the future. As far as marketing is concerned, social networks appear to be greatly enhancing email campaigns. A recent study from GetResponse found that campaigns utilizing these networks were able to increase click-through-rates by 30%.

Do you think email is in any danger of extinction at the hands of social networks and/or SMS? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Facebook Thinks Email is “Probably Going Away”


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  • http://www.oceancopy.co.uk Jamie Graham

    This whole “email will soon die off” debate reminds me of around 20-30 years ago when everyone was predicting the paperless office and how printers and paper would soon be a thing of the past.

    That clearly hasn’t happened yet and I can’t see email ever going away either, at least not for a very long time.

    • Chris Crum

      Some are still pushing for the paperless office thing, but I don’t think paper is going to be obsolete anytime soon either.

  • http://www.approachnet.com approachnet

    With around 5% of the email I receive being actual email I want and the remaining 95% being spam email. I wish it would go away. I’m ready for an alternative.

    • I wish not

      Isn’t that the same as post-mail, 95% flyers and junk and 5% bills/letters. Why complain about it, there’s a little button called unsubscribe or delete, it’s not the end of the world!

  • http://www.TechThirst.com Anuj Ahooja

    I can see email becoming less used than in the past, but becoming obsolete is absolutely out of the question. People said the same thing about post-mail once email becoming a standard and we still use – albeit a lot less – post-mail on a daily basis.

  • Guest

    Teenagers weren’t big on snail mail back in the old days, either. Our behavior at 16 isn’t the same at 30; just because teens prefer texts and social networking over email now doesn’t mean they will be like that when they get older.

    • Chris Crum

      Agreed. Will see if they’re big Justin Bieber fans when they’re 30 as well.

      • http://discountdental4u.blogspot.com M.Kowalsky

        Great point, Chris!

        BTW, what does the SMS you mentioned in the article stand for?

  • Guest

    Teen-age behavior, tastes, etc.. indicates little of value. About the only thing it currently indicates is that as a culture/people in the U.S. we’re pretty much screwed since about 95 to 99% of the teeny-boppers I encounter are a bunch of lazy, ignorant, self-agrandizing morons.

  • http://www/equestrianwebsites.com Brian Dowding

    Who’s going to use facebook, or any publicly viewable site, for business correspondence? Certainly not me.

  • Guest

    What a crock! The whole thrust of the remarks she made were aimed at the demographics they mostly serve – NOT the rest of the population that don’t, won’t, can’t or wouldn’t dream of using FB. Oh, and let’s not forget the ones that left because of privacy issues. This seems to be just another flash in the pan idea, shot from the lip of someone who is not correctly analyzing the “other” relevant data and user useage when it comes to emails. Dying indeed! Not!

  • http://www.8thplanet.com John

    …probably not (not soon anyway). Show me what’s going to replace it, because it won’t be Facebook. It just is not appropriate for business.

  • http://www.ytb.com/rxmhiebert R. Hiebert

    Don’t agree, because aside from workplace emails, common emails as we see in our home “office” PC’s and B.B. and laptops, etc or iPads, etc, our email addresses are on our business cards and in our conversations, and that will never stop. I have noticed a reduced use of the phone and fewer letters in the mail box but that doesn’t mean they will end for any reason. Even though I do have more than one facebook page, I still get emails, use the phone, etc. What will business web pages show for contact info, a Facebook ID? I don’t think so.

  • Guest

    I didn’t realize Sheryl Sandberg and the others running facebook were smoking crack.

    Do you think Murdock is paying them to make these ridiculous claims, so he can break out the defibrillator for myspace? LOL

  • http://chriscrumley.com Chris Crumley

    Email could go away from its present form, but certainly not to be replaced by FaceBook. Many need an archive of email correspondence for business purposes and there is no such thing in FaceBook. Try finding a pertinent passage/subject/content in a past FB message.

    Many need a way to reach a specific group of 6, 12, 50 or 100 on a specific topic. Email.

    Many need a quick conversational message turnaround. Email.

    Seems I heard some University stop issuing email addresses to students recently since they saw FaceBook as the communications replacement. It is possible that could happen in school, but not out here in the cold hard business world.

  • http://www.fabfive24.com beric

    Is somebody sniffing glue? How could you replace a email? Inexpensive and effective whats the new email? Paper? LOL

  • http://korbyimagery.com Shanna Cramer

    Like newspapers, email is generational. I can’t imagine life without it, while high school kids don’t use it at all. They sign up for email accounts long enough to get YouTube and Facebook accounts. The kids with phones text.

    I have to say I can see the benefits of using Facebook as a communication tool. You never lose your contacts, have outdated contacts, you have the ability to broadcast to all or some friends, chat, message, create personal and business pages all in one spot.

    Facebook has a few issues to work out before they take over email, if that is the plan. Privacy, interface design, usability, and changing the rules constantly are a few.

  • Stan Bernard

    I think essentially Sandberg is correct in her assertions.
    What is needed is a new form of personal address that has the immediacy of an SMS with the rich and layered immersivity of video and web connected text. Augmented reality with information overlay that allows us to address our environment and our data in multiple ways..no need to carry a screen with you…any window..or device close to you thats free…will carry a conversation…all you need is a personal unique identifyer and the clould will make all of your data local to you where ever you are. Video or audio updates will supplant email as soon as a seamless platform evolves to support it. Iphone 4 is not quite there yet..but its a look at one version of the future. My eyeglasses will recognize that I have not got them on and send me a reminder telling me where to find them..my keys will text me a snapshot of where they are too… Email is not the end of the communication fronteir…the mind…is neural transmitters and nodes..that give the connected a supernatural ability to manipulate data..and the wars fought now over the networks..they say the mind has no firewall…but I disagree…in order to step back..one simply turns the technology off..
    Email has the blessed utility of being silent and unobstrusive..all of the technology that replaces it is unlikely to be as benign but undoubtedly equally essential to the next generations

    • Chris Crum

      I have no doubt that new forms of communication will rise, but as others have suggested, that does not mean they will make email obsolete, just as handwritten letters and phones are still in use today.

  • Darren

    I understand Facebook and at one point when I had an account I “Fanned” Best Buy, Starbucks, Etc. and did like there updates. For some people however that do not have a use for Facebook, they could not get updates and specials if it wasn’t for email. I mean not everyone subscribes to email newsletters but I for one love it better than Facebook. With all the security issues with Facebook and My Space and selling personal info, I got out. I just got tired of reading about friends and family getting up and washing the eye gunk out of their eyes and what they did just 5 minutes ago. With Facebook it is hard not to become friends with friends and just turn them away. With email I just delete it and they never know so I

  • http://www.ianstudio.com ianstudio

    6th sense is the next big think. Well common sense obviously is not…

    How on earth can e-mail disappear.. we’ll always need a specific address where we can be reached.. through our computer, laptop, mobile or anywhere.. and the next big thing would be some sort of linking of PERSONAL websites.. not a throw-it-all-in social gizmo like Facebook.. no a real personal page that which can only be obtained by having our own website.. which will be superseded yet again by something in due time… A “Skype/Email type of addon to a page could possibly be the leader here.. but definitely not Facebook. Facebook dip your head in cold water for a minute and come to your senses will ya !!!!

  • http://www.frankthinking.com FrankReed

    I didn’t use e-mail until it was invented. Then I had to because I had a job. Kids don’t use e-mail because they don’t have to yet. E-mail is the new “paper trail” so it will not go away any time soon. Business will require it. As for someone with that high of a position in Facebook saying it will go away, it seems like she is hanging out with too many kids herself.

  • Guest

    E-mail is for business, social networks are for wasting time. I’d like to see somone try to use facebook chatter to cover their ass over a work mistake. What would the bosses think then?

  • Jennifer S

    Not to bash Facebook as I feel it’s a great networking tool, but there is no way e-mail will become obsolete. It’s a form of identification and verification. C’mon FB, please don’t grasp at straws.

  • Oz

    The Paper Trail. How many hard copies do I have of all documents…but this world is electric..and in this world we have gone “electric’ or rather digital, “The Digital Movement” I personally think that people should write letters again..physically write..but this world is now digital. I cant count the hundreds or even thousand emails that I sent out that came back
    Mailer Daemon or the no replys to all the letters I sent out. Email is challenging. Our Digital World is Challenging. I dont think email is going away…I just hope people dont hit “delete” so often without reading what is at the other end of the message. At least in physical mail you have to take the paper to the trash…with digital you can press delete…end of story. If its our long proposal written out, and carefully designed…or even a book that we have prepared for a project (less than as second can end our hundreds and even thousands of hours in preparation for just that cause..press delete..its gone!) Jobs hang on this thing. I must admit that a paper hanging digital trail is hard to bonefy…too hard. But then our jobs hang right here for something better than email…far better…and hopefully more 3D/4D

  • http://www.StarContentWriters.com Amber Khan

    I think that is very presumptuous to say that email will be non-existent. Facebook thinks that the whole universe revolves around its social media platform, but we all know users are fickle and just waiting for the next big networking site. With that being the case, email will remain constant and is a necessity.

    PS – I highly doubt corporate America wants its employees on Facebook checking communications!

  • http://www.connecticutplastics.com Michele

    Facebook is just dazzled by their own success. They’d like to think they can tell the future too. I use email for business, all day, every day. And there are things that I want friends to know, that I don’t want to post on facebook and tell the world. So electronic mail is not going anywhere.

  • http://www.loveshade.org Alden Loveshade

    I’m somewhat unusual in that I emailed for several years before I even knew it was called “e-mail.” My messages and stories were sent only to the main office of the newspaper I worked for, but it was still email. I sent not at the now common speed of 54.0 Mpbs or 54,000,000, but at a speed of 300. Back then, that seemed amazingly fast.

    As a development of the electronic age, email may well eventually go the way of the carrier pigeon. Personally, I suspect computers themselves will someday be replaced. But I don’t see either development happening soon.

    Generally, the earlier a development occurs, the longer it lasts. The wheel is still with us; the eight-track player is gone. Paper will probably survive much longer than email. But I suspect both will outlive Facebook.

    http://www.loveshade.org/blog

  • http://www.4-dsuccess.com Anna Weber

    It is just not feasible – there are those of us who have strong need for efficient “systems” and for me – it includes email as being part and parcel with my Facebook endeavors; one could simply not function without the other.

    A

  • Guest

    Yes I think it is! With all the social networks and the amount of texting most of my friends say they hardly check their emails anymore

  • http://missemmamm.com Mary

    I’ve been thinking the same thing myself. When I check my email it’s all advertisements with a little work thrown in. It’s certainly not utilized to keep in touch w/ anyone I know anymore. Everyone contacts u via some social network.

  • http://www.psychicdirectory.co.uk Guest

    Think facebook is talking utter rubbish. Cant see paypal and banks asking for your facebook account can you !!!!!!

  • Rachael

    Email will never go away for business and professional messaging. Text messages and Facebook are primarily used for social interaction and some product promotion, but serious business will never be conducted through Facebook or text messaging. How could one possibly send or receive a detailed business email through either? Why would I want to login in Facebook when I can easily send an email without it?

    I also have a big issue with the idea that teenagers create the trends for the future. I think that the 30-60 year olds at any given time actually do the majority of creating and inventing and while teenagers do influence trends, it is probably the 20-30 year olds that really set trends. Also I would have never said this as a teenager or 20 something, but your perspective in general and interaction with technology changes as you get older. For example, I was a big gamer in my teens and 20′s and then stopped gaming entirely when I started to take my career seriously. Text messaging was lots of fun when I was single and dating, but now that I have a hubby and a child, I don’t have time to text message at all.

    I am actually wondering if the novelty of Facebook will wear off or be reduced as time goes by. Certainly many people will continue to use it, but there are other social networks available and a lot of people & marketing departments are joining Facebook because it is the latest craze. I think there is a lot of hype around Facebook and that because traditional media, like newspaper and TV, are becoming less popular, a lot of marketing departments are jumping on the Facebook\Twitter bandwagon because they don’t know what else to do or they want to be cool. I noticed my local paper’s website now has all kinds of embedded Facebook links and I find them very irritating. I use Facebook but the excitement is wearing off. I would probably only check it every few weeks if I didnt get emails from it and it wasn’t available on my Blackberry. As social media matures and its audience matures things will change and I suspect Facebook is the hot product for NOW and not neccessarily the future. Email on the other hand is a tool that is not brand specific. I doubt it will be going anywhere.

    • Guest

      bravo – nicely state

  • janchan

    This is just sheer egotism on the part of the FB management. Saying things like this definitely shows their inexperience and juvenile viewpoints. Facebook is a fad. Everyone I know who was high on it a few months ago is using it less and less. Pretty soon, it’ll probably just be something the kids use to occupy their time. FB doesn’t encourage meaningful relationships and conversations. When I want to talk to someone about something that really means something to me, I certainly will not be posting it as an “update” on my status. Get a grip, FB management!

  • bvllets

    This is offensive. I would be willing to bet only 11% of teenagers brush their teeth. Is it going away?

    Anyways I think she says the C word around 1:08.

  • Guest

    I don’t think so. There are so many folks you may be emailing that you do not want to see popping up all the time on your Facebook or Twitter. What would be the point. Lots of these folks are strangers so we still need email as a free source of communication. It may slow down a bit but email providers need to up the anty on how we use emails to keep up with the competitors trying to eliminate them.Besides, this woman is basing this on the use of emails by teenagers who do not have adult lives, job searches, business contacts, etc.

  • http://www.c-drew.com c drew

    It is laughable that facebook would believe their proprietary forum would replace e-mail. They would like to think that but that would mean we trust them with our Internet.

    People understand that they have zero rights under facebook whereas we control the content and those we want to communicate with via e-mail. One day facebook will show its proprietary interests and insult the public. Then they will learn the lesson others online have learned and lose those who are insulted by their actions.

    I believe we value our freedom too much to put all our marbles in facebook or other social networking sites.

  • http://concept-illustrator.com Guest

    what does that “facebook thinks” business mean?
    facebook sucks…and is probably going away as well :-)
    when is another question, but, soon enough anyway.

  • http://youcanbuild.it Chuck Bartok

    E-mail will remain a viable tool for communication, as is DIRECT MAIL and the proper use of the Telephone.

    Effective use of Direct Mail, Telephone, E-mail and Social networking (Facebook) have been responsible for many of my Clients to enjoy Increased Sales and profits the past couple of years.
    A successful business can not focus on just One media

  • Stefanie Fields

    If you just take the statement “look at what teenagers are doing today” there’s a lot to dissect. First, when I was a teenager we were still using IBM Selectrics to learn typing and THAT was late 80′s when typewriters were already leaner and lighter…keyboarding wasn’t even available since computers were still so large, fairly new technology and incredibly expensive.

    Second, they don’t e-mail because they don’t need to. They don’t truly need to communicate in writing. In business, we have to get things in writing. Teenagers don’t typically work jobs that require e-mail…they flip burgers, deliver pizza, babysit, mow lawns, etc. E-mail isn’t a big part of their world because they don’t NEED it.

    Social media certainly provides a means to communicate with customers and people. But, there are a lot of security issues, privacy issues and data storage and management issues that will have to be addressed. I’m not saying it couldn’t work…I’m just saying.

    Finally, phones are still a great way to communicate verbally and will never be replaced. Faxes have become less and less desirable with scanners being so easy to use and able sit on your desktop without taking too much space. Scan it, e-mail it and shred it. More and more businesses are scanning in the mail as soon as it arrives and shredding the actual paper. E-mail is the only way to forward this information (without printing it, which would defeat the purpose all together). Not to mention, all those old paper files are getting scanned into data storage systems as well for easy access. Does that mean paper will become obselete? Hardly.

    I can’t imagine how e-mail would become obselete. Then again, when I was a teenager, I couldn’t have imagined e-mail.

  • http://www.bassmedia.net Guest

    Yeah right, as much as the sun is dying and thats got a few hundred millions years left in it.

  • http://www.generatorland.com MikeR

    Email may change but it won’t go away. It’s push vs. pull. A Web site can’t expect people to “remember” to come to it without some kind of instant or periodic notification pushed out to them — whether it’s a text message or an email. It’s just another example of claiming the death of something to get publicity.

  • Pacres

    If it wasn’t for the annoying emails I get sent from facebook when ever my profile is commented on, I would not visit. If they didn’t EMAIL me, they would lose me. ;P

  • Guest

    A completely and utterly rediculous notion! Email is easy and cheap (often even free!) and with places like facebook and myspace constantly having programming issues how in the world do they expect to replace it?!?

  • http://www.zoostuff.webs.com Rick

    Email Going Away?

    Yeah, right! I think those are the same people who said that we would be riding in flying cars at the beginning of 2000.

    So if they think that email is going away, then why did they ask me for my email address to be able to post this comment? Any thoughts on that?

    • Chris Crum

      With all due respect, we should be in flying cars by now.

  • Guest

    email is here to stay!

  • http://www.plonka.com Plonka

    …younger people don’t use it as often, doesn’t mean us older folks don’t rely heavily on email communication for our jobs. How else did I find out about this article? I love the captcha-element on this page btw!

  • Rock

    Huh? The big difference between teenagers and “us” is… a job. So you’re like going to like SMS your like totally awesome like proposal to your like client dude man? The other distinction – reality. Sooner or later you stop playing Everquest, get a job, and start dating real girls. Can’t hide in the FB fantasy world forever.

    • http://www.overpraiseband.com Jezer

      kkkk…. that’s true!

  • http://www.atomni.com Michael Dugas

    I must comment that Facebook’s recent integration of SMS technologies has illustrated the sentiment that Ms. Sandberg expressed during her speech: you can now use your mobile number just as you would have used your email address to recover lost passwords, and indeed receive whatever updates you feel the need to be bothered with during the day.

    Although it is true that a valid email address is still required to create an account, once created, you could easily manage one from there on out without ever needing to receive another email from Facebook. I have not seen any statistics regarding the demographics of Facebook SMS functionality users, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see these features used more heavily by younger users, which could indicate – as Ms. Sandberg expressed – that this is an increasing trend.

    I do agree with you that email is a catalyst for social media interactions, and also with the notion that email is not is any risk of complete obsolescence in the near future. However, more than anything i think this argument is one of rhetoric. Whether SMS, email, or a message through a social media platform, the medium is secondary to the information contained. These technologies and their uses are converging on our mobile devices and the distinctions between them are quickly eroding from the end user’s perspective.

    Thanks for the post!

  • TEEKATIC

    Just the fact that we need an email address to make comments is strong enough of a fact that email is here to stay… besides that everything we transact online (such as any purchase, comment, or post made) requires an email account. The newest trend in business is email invoices and credit card transactions- which most definitely requires and email (and its the new GREEN way of doing business). The only reason teenagers don’t use their email is because they have no use for it at this moment. I remember when I was in High School (only 4 yrs ago) I never really used my email ( i didn’t need it). But once these kids get to college they will be using their email account regular and start to learn the real significance of email. As for now they are simply too young to understand as they are so caught up in the social networking phenomena.

  • Guest

    Well, I’ve never gotten the koobface virus from any email. But a ‘good and trusted friend’ sent it to me on Facebook. And boy was I thrilled. Sorry, Facebook just isn’t safe. So goodbye to that UNSAFE program. Besides, it’s just for gossip wussys anyway.

  • http://www.kmhkreations.com Duncan Harmsworth

    I really don’t think that email will go away, the same way that snail mail didn’t dissolve when email came out. It facilitates a need. Customers who wish to contact your company still need an address to send their questions to, and they are not going to post their message publicly on your Facebook Fanpage!

    The “children of the future” are going to get jobs, pay bills, and want statements, and communication online just like the rest of us adults. Texting is great for a quick message, but without the HTML formatting to do ads for marketing campaigns SMS has a long way to come before it replaces email if ever.

  • Old School

    I can see that for kids, but not for adults.

    According to a 2009 Scarborough Multi-Market study (granted this was a 2009 study and a lot can change in a year), sending/receiving email ranked #1 as the way adults used the internet.

    At least with email you don’t run into character limits, you can add images, and my incoming messages are organized automatically into folders. I don’t see that happening anytime soon with Facebook. :)

  • http://www.venicebeachphotos.net/ Guest

    and will learn that from an e-mail.

    • Guest

      LMAO! :D

  • http://Superstarcase.net Kenny Beck

    An excellent article and an excellent summary.

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