Email Disruption: The Disruption Series

Email Disruption: The Disruption Series

While face to face and verbal communication are often ideal, written messages have been an important part of many cultures and societies for centuries. These messages have allowed us to connect with people that are not physically near to us and to express ourselves in different ways. Thirty years ago, the way in which the public communicated and accomplished certain tasks was much different than it is today. If you needed to contact your family member in another state, you called that person or wrote a letter and mailed it via the U.S. Postal Service.


The Benefits of Email

Writing a letter and mailing it meant waiting for the receiver to get it and respond, hence the term “snail mail”. Calling meant that you may not reach the person you needed to or having to call back at a different time or that you would have to wait on hold for long periods of time.


Now with email, you could have your message delivered to the appropriate person or department almost instantaneously. While you may not receive an immediate response, the communication was much faster than snail mail or potentially even a phone call.


Another factor that has contributed to the rise of email use is the fact that it is a complementary activity. This means email can be checked while doing other activities. In fact, 69 percent of email users report checking their email while watching TV, 57 percent say they check their email in bed, and 79 percent say they check it while on vacation.

Marketing via Email

Many businesses and companies have found email to be an effective, yet inexpensive advertising tool. Email marketing allows businesses to reach a wide range of customers without having to pay for print, radio, or television advertisements. These emails are also beneficial because they can be personalized. To comprehend the way that email has impacted the marketing climate, consider these email marketing facts and statistics:

  • As many as 59 percent of business to business marketers report that their most successful tool in the context of generating revenue is email.
  • Based on information provided by QuickSprout, people who subscribe to emails are three times as likely to share content on social media when compared with customer leads obtained through another method
  • Email marketing was the best way to retain customers for 80 percent of retail professionals
  • Permission-based emails are preferred by 77 percent of consumers as opposed to texts, direct mail, phone, or even social media
  • Although most consumers report that they prefer HTML emails over plain-text ones, the later type actually receives higher opening rates
  • According to a study by Campaign Monitor, for every $1 spent on email marketing, $44 is made in return


It might make sense that the internet came first and then email, however, it actually occurred in the reverse order. In 1965, MIT computers used a program called “MAILBOX.” This unique and innovative program for its time allowed computer users at MIT  to create messages for others on the computer. The next time the recipient logged into the computer, the message would be delivered to them. The only drawback at that time is that the same computer must be used by the sender and the receiver.


The History of Email

Precursors to our current email system include the telegraph, Telex, and AUTODIN. Telex was a teleprinter service created in 1933 and that grew to global use after 1945. The AUTODIN was a messaging service that began in 1962. This service connected 1,350 terminals and saw as many as 30 million messages each month with the average length of around 3,000 characters. AUTODIN linked over 300 sites in several different countries by the year 1968.


In 1971, Ray Tomlinson solved this issue by creating a networked email system. This system provided almost immediate communication between computers within the same infrastructure. It was so useful that it quickly gained popularity. Tomlinson is credited with adding the “@” symbol to emails in order to indicate where the message is to go.


“Two years from now, spam will be solved.” – Bill Gates (2004)


In 1993, as the use of the internet as a whole spread, the term “email” was coined in place of  “electronic mail.” In the following few years, Hotmail, Yahoo, America Online (AOL), and Echomail etched out the future landscape of the internet and email.


In the late 1990s, the use of email and users with active email accounts skyrocketed. By the year 2000, having an email address was no longer considered a luxury or something only top execs had. It was now on par with having a phone number.


Current Email Use

Today there are more than 2.6 billion active email users and over 4.6 billion email accounts being used. Nearly 105 billion emails are sent every day, a number that is expected to reach 246 billion before 2020.


This makes email a vital and widespread communication tool on the internet. Its accessibility has made email nearly indispensable to our daily lives. In fact, it is estimated that the number of email users in the U.S. will rise to nearly 254.7 million by the end of 2020.


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