Facebook is killing your email system

Gartner predicts 1 in 5 corporate users will switch to cloud-based mail

Gartner is touting research highlighting a drastic shift that's almost completely invisible unless you're 16 years old or live with a luddite: social networks, especially Facebook, are taking over from email.

The survey predicts that 10 percent of corporate users will be using something other than traditional on-premise email by the end of the year. By 2014, 20 percent will be using social networks rather than traditional email.

A lot of that will be managed via smartphone on the run, not desktops. If you live with anyone underage or insufficiently geeked, you probably noticed they don't talk about email or Outlook or Gmail in the same way most people you associate do.

When they say email or IM, they may mean messages on Facebook; or Gmail, or both; or both email and IM. They're not necessarily different in the minds of social network users, as they are for those who either got familiar with store-and-forward standalone email, or dedicated IM clients and protocols (both of which sneaked into corporations in their day the same way social nets are doing now).

The merger/blending/mushing of communication/collaborative apps on social networking sites isn't part of anyone's strategic five-year IT plan. But, in five years, if your IT/email/communications plan doesn't reflect that mushing, you'll be so far behind the perception of your end users that they'll resist using your clearly superior technology in favor of something that's simply easier.

It's happened before. Just ask your mom. Or your daughter. Friend them first so they get the message.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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