Worst. Inforgraphic. Ever. The “Evolution of Email” from Microsoft

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.

10 Comments to “Worst. Inforgraphic. Ever. The “Evolution of Email” from Microsoft”

  1. Interesting, I have to disagree.

    I found this infographic incredibly informative. I concur, that some of the server-based emails, which are so common today and made the biggest shift in mass accessibility possible, are not well defined here, but is that the intent of the infographic? to rank the relevance of these advances?

    Perhaps it’s tailored to a different crowd, one who is interested in the steps of the evolution, and not necessarily ranking the steps in terms of relevance, which seems to be what you’re suggesting. Some could argue that without SMTP and other advances, server based emails would not have been possible, so how do those rank in the evolution, theoretically more important because they were required to advance.

    For me, the infographic served to increase my knowledge of the technology advances leading up to the email we know and use today. Possibly because I am not in close contact with the ‘social media’ circles, I found it surprising that email has been around since the 60s and hotmail came about in ’96.

    Re: Facebook – I often will use the message feature on facebook as opposed to sending an email, which by extrapolation, signifies a shift in the way people use email. I have friends that refuse to check their email, but check their facebook hourly.
    According to the computer scientist in my office, facebook is developing a direct email system, which they anticipate will replace email into the future.

    Thanks for the infographic though, I learned quite a bit, and have enjoyed thinking about it critically


    • Thanks for the comment, Dawn.

      I agree that the timeline is informative. I also think you are right on the money to question the intent of the infographic.

      I’m not convinced that the intent of this infographic was to be informative about email, rather, I think the intent was to show how great Microsoft Outlook is. This would be a tough sell for most Outlook users, like me, who often experience slow performance, crashes, and other desktop software based issues.

      This one-sided account of the evolution provides a skewed perspective that leaves out some incredibly significant milestones in the history of email.


  2. I totally agree.

    I’m pretty familiar with the “evolution” of email and read the infographic out of curiosity. Not only did it glaze over the true innovators in email but the numbers skewed heavily towards “we use email more” which is a conclusion I would challenge.

    Showcasing specific milestones for MS Outlook is fine if it were an “evolution of MS Outlook” but to frame it around the general topic of email is misleading and disrespectful to the companies who really disrupted the landscape. I doubt MS Outlook would have “evolved” to what it is today had Yahoo, Hotmail and Gmail not changed the game.


    • Thanks for the comment. I really liked your point – “I doubt MS Outlook would have ‘evolved’ to what it is today had Yahoo, Hotmail and Gmail not changed the game.” – Well said!


  3. Haha. I had completely forgotten about the central home e-mail thing. Way to bring back some DOS memories.


    • I should have added:

      We need to consider churnalism vs. journalism here. The infographic had some tidbits of useful info for me, but at the end of the day it’s important to remember it came from Microsoft and to take the outline with a grain of salt.


    • Haha. I agree DOS and AOL really bring back the memories….especially of those brightly coloured AOL CD-ROMS that would come in the mail with samples of Tide.


      • Your churnalism point is a good one – This infographic may spark an interest, but more research and analysis is needed to write a fulsome story


  4. I love how they give ARPAnet less than 50 characters when THAT was the start of everything Internet – EVERYTHING. There would be no social media, no email, no “cloud” – nothing if they hadn’t laid that groundwork, and it’s given a token “first email sent” in this infographic. It may be boring history at this point, but even young drivers know who Henry Ford is. Microsoft doesn’t do anything unless they give themselves credit anyway, even though their marketing is lackluster, uncoordinated, brand backwards and transparently contrived. Sigh…


  5. I like the infographic. Do check out another Infographic related to the Evolution of Email, which contains some interesting facts as well : http://omgeureka.blogspot.com/2011/02/evolution-of-emails-infographic.html


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