Personal Email has become more of a Notification Medium and less of a Communication Medium


Now a days my personal inbox is primarily filled up with notification, alert or newsletter emails. Most of the emails I receive are about notifying me that someone has commented on my Facebook status or Blog entry, or someone has started following me on Twitter or Quora. Then there are alert emails from financial institutions or insurance agencies reminding me about paying my bills. And the third category is emails from companies or products about their promotions, offers or monthly newsletters.

In fact, now a days I receive very few personal emails. My friends are communicating with me on the social networks like Facebook and Twitter. My family is communicating with me using phone or similar VOIP services. Very rarely my friends or family members will send me a personal email asking about my whereabouts. If at all I receive email from them, it will be mostly related to some work only.

Over the past decade we’ve been believing that email is one of the most widely used communication medium, but I think it’s not entirely true anymore. The communication part of email is slowly dying down. The communication aspect now has been taken care by other social properties on the web, and email has become more of a notification medium for your communication activities on other services.

One problem with this trend is, even though our communication is happening on other services, we still spend similar amount of time on email services to manage these notification emails — we still have to open it, read it, and then delete it. And we also spend same amount time on other services to actually communicate with our friends and family. Now a days I don’t even open these emails and simply delete them based on their subject line.

I understand that I can stop receiving these notification emails by setting some options on other services and reduce my email overload, but my problem is I do want to receive these notifications. It makes sense to have one centralized notification centre which informs me about the activities that are happening on different distributed services.

But may be the current form of email services is not efficient to receive these kinds of notifications. All modern email services are fully loaded with features that are designed to foster 2-way communication. Features like Reply, Forward, Attachements, etc. make no sense if I just want to receive a notification from other services.

May be existing email services can identify these notification types of emails automatically, and separate them out in different view, and show me in different format, and once I read it, delete them automatically. Or may be we need some stripped down version of email service as a separate application to just receive notifications from all other services. Another thing can be done is to enforce these other services to only send text-only notifications, with really short message body, and not to send lot of unnecessary junk like graphic images, other marketing material, etc. That would also make accessing these emails much faster and simpler.

Anyways, I don’t know which email service will initiate this kind of change or will someone create a separate simple notification service and take off this burden from email service. These are just my observations and expectations, and I would love to hear your observations and experiences.


Originally published at aditya.kothadiya.com on December 25, 2010.

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