Email Is Broken

More than sixty days ago, when Kev challenged everybody to write a blog post for one hundred days and decided to accept that challenge, I created a list of ideas for possible blog posts.

Today Kev wrote a post about how email is not broken, and I felt like now would be the perfect time to get to number one on my list.

First things first, Kev thought that maybe the talk lately about how broken email is was related to a new (new?) service called Hey. That might be true, but I'll come right out and say that I know next to nothing about Hey. I saw a couple articles about it where Hey and Apple were fighting about getting approved to the App Store, and I read Kev's post. That's literally all I know about Hey.

No, I've felt that email is broken for a very long time. First, what is email?

Electronic mail (email or e-mail) is a method of exchanging messages (“mail”) between people using electronic devices.

That's copied directly from the Wikipedia article.

What are some problems with email?

  1. Spam
  2. Privacy

Those are copied from Kev's article. I'm leaving out “workflow management” because that's such a subjective idea.

So, because it's me and Kev was the one that made the list, I'm going to start at the bottom.

Privacy

I don't know how things are in non-American countries, but in the United States, it's illegal to read someone else's mail. Well, their hard copy mail anyway. Email has no such protections. What gets sent to you in email might as well be posted on a public web site.

Kev made note of the phrase, “When the product is free, you’re the product.”

This is definitely true when email is involved, but it shouldn't be. In the United States, if you have a place to live you have a mail address. You don't have to pay for it outside of your federal taxes.

Here the argument could be made that some ISPs will provide you with an email address when you use their service. That's sometimes true, and sometimes it's not. Either way, it requires you trust your ISP, which I do not.

When it all comes down to it, you need to pay extra for a service just to keep your communications private.

Spam

Most days, I hate walking to my mailbox. It's outside and it's hot. I get my mail, and walk it back to my house to sort it.

Sort it?

Sort it.

Why am I sorting it? I'm sorting it because ninty-five percent of it is garbage. It's for the person who previously lived in my house, or addressed to “Resident” or “Who it may concern”, or doesn't even have a name because it's literally to my house.

After I'm done sorting, the remaining five percent (maybe) of the mail that's left is usually bills. It's quite literally the same information I get when I visit the web page of the services I use.

Despite all of that, I still prefer actual mail to my email.

Why?

I'll let Kev answer that one.

Spam is by far the biggest problem to plague email. No spam filter is perfect and it takes work to keep on top of it.

Yeup (pronounce that phonetically, it's not a typo). That's true. My email spam makes my snail mail spam look like amature hour. I receive hundreds upon hundreds of messages a day. I would be ecstatic if only ninty-five percent of it was garbage. That would be a massive upgrade.

And I can't ignore all that spam like I do my snail mail spam, because like Kev said, “no spam filter is perfect”. That means I still have to go through all that crap to make sure my filter isn't catching stuff I want and telling it to discard stuff it missed.

Alternatives

Honestly, most of my communication these days takes place outside of email. I message my friends with Signal or Keybase or on our favorite social network. Notifications come to me via text and I can access longer form information on web sites.

Really, for me email could easily be replaced with text messaging and an RSS feed if so many services didn't require an email address to sign in with.

Email is Broken

And that is why email is broken. The only real function it performs for me is opening new accounts on web pages. It was intended to pass messages back and forth, and while it technically accomplishes that task still, it doesn't do it in a way that's useful for me, the end user.

Does this mean that I'm going to close down my email accounts and forget about the whole thing? Unfortunately I can't do that at this point. I'm forced to continue to use a system that requires constant care and maintenance so I can pretend it's useful.

Day 60 of the #100DaysToOffload Series: