Who knew that the Evolution of Email, as told by Microsoft, would be even more boring than the technology itself?
What bothers me most about this infographic is that is glosses over the biggest part of the evolution – the introduction of free, browser-based, cloud-computing, email services. Yes, they mention Yahoo Mail, Gmail, and Hotmail, but really don’t do them justice. I would argue that the email “revolution” didn’t really happen until these free services were introduced.
These services allow anybody to have an email account, not just those who pay for internet services. This is big because, in the 1990s, many families (mine included) only had one email address that all family members used. Though this account all the incoming and outgoing messages were available for everybody to see. With the introduction of services like Hotmail, we no longer had to use the “house” account that our parents set up and monitored.
With this new-found freedom, young internet users were able to get their first taste of innovation online as they explored and experimented with the power of the internet. They could now sign up for ICQ, subscribe to newsletters, enter contests, have their own contacts, launch a personal website (Nerd Alert: I had a Warez, Appz, and Qbasic website), etc.
These free email tools really allowed youth to differentiate themselves from their parents in much of the same way the youth of the 1950s and 1960s used technology (primarily, the transistor radio) to differentiate themselves from theirs.
Maybe I’m wrong on this one, what do you think?
Also, I don’t know what Facebook has to do with the evolution of email – it’s a completely different communications model. Email is essentially glorified letter writing distributed from computer-to-computer whereas social media thrives on the many-to-many conversations that are often happening in real-time.