“Email is not going to disappear. Possibly ever. Until the robots kill us all.” – Paul Buchheit, creator of Gmail, co-founder of FriendFeed, currently doing vague infrastructure things at Facebook.
Today, at our RealTime CrunchUp event in San Francisco, Buchheit and Threadsy founder Rob Goldman sat down for a chat with our own Steve Gillmor and Erick Schonfeld. The topic was: Can We Kill Email Already? All Aboard The Micro-Message Bus.
So can we kill email?
Well if Buchheit’s quote didn’t tip you off, the consensus was “no.” Though there are some interesting things coming out that are helping to expand our communication, we’re just not at the point now where we can live without email. And in fact, for many of these services like Twitter and Facebook, you still need email to be notified about new followers or new messages.
Threadsy (which launched at TechCrunch50 this year) is trying to help the transition away from email by integrating it with other services like Twitter, but even Goldman acknowledges that the email notification problem remains an issue because people keep relying on it. At one point, a question from the audience asked about Google Wave, another would be “email-killer,” and Schonfeld noted that he was having a hard time getting into it because he wasn’t getting notified via email when there is a new Wave message. So you can see the problem.
Speaking of Wave, when asked about his thoughts on it, Buchheit noted that he hadn’t actually tried it yet, while laughing. “The invite is sitting in my inbox.” This is significant because Buchheit was instrumental in creating Gmail for Google. But Buchheit doesn’t consider Google Wave as a replacement of email or even Twitter or Facebook. Both him and Goldman agreed that it seemed more of a collaboration tool. And both felt that despite some great technology it was still a few years away from having a polished experience.
When asked if there would be a mashup of social and private streams, such as email and Facebook with Twitter, Buchheit said that he felt rather than one thing killing off another that we would just keep layering on new things. Goldman noted that the next step for Threadsy is to provide better context about the messages you’re getting and who you are talking to. He also noted that being able to search across all your messages is key.
So, no. Email isn’t dead yet, but it may be changing.
[photo: (cc) Kenneth Yeung - www.thelettertwo.com]