E-mail is for postcards

I am on the verge of despairing over the future of e-mail. I'm seeing

figures suggesting that over ninety percent of all e-mail traffic is now spam. Wow. The world is going dark out there.

I am having an increasing number of "all spam downloads" on my computer. I download e-mail, my spam filters tag the spam, it gets trashed and my inbox ends up completely empty. 100% futile e-mail downloads. Wow.

At the same time, I am seeing mobile devices appear that are all about dedicated attention to managing e-mail. No browsing, no voice calls - just e-mail. I don't get e-mail, I get spam. Admittedly, I have taken steps to move some of my electronic communications out of my inbox. Over the last while I have been un-subscribing from information sources that I can get via RSS/Atom feeds. I get lots of work-related e-mail but its from a small number of sources.

I am reminded - in a bad way - of the relationship between registered letters and postcards. In some countries, postcards have become so hit-and-miss in terms of delivery that they are only used for vacation "wish you were here" messages. You would not use them for anything important. I fear we are heading the same way with the open, global e-mail system.

Unfortunately, all the alternatives have problems. All the alternatives appear to need to actively inhibit communications in order to improve the quality of the communication. There is some universal law hidden in there I think. "The quality of an electronic message is inversely proportional to the ease with which it was sent and received" - or something like that. E-mail will not disappear of course - even under the burden of ninety percent spam. It will, however, be increasingly less important as a business tool.

Technology marketing being what it is, the replacement will probably be called e-mail too but it will have to work on a very different model and substrate. White-lists based on bona-fide business IP addresses, digital signatures, "call back" systems, micro-payment digital postage stamps etc. etc.

I have a hunch which is also a suspicion and a fear. I fear that the only pragmatic way to make e-mail quality go up significantly is via re-inter-mediating the communication channel. We will reach a point of desperation here the privacy concerns of that model are outweighed by the convenience of it.

Whoever cracks that will win and will win big. I would pay some money for higher quality "e-mail". I'm pretty sure you would too. Who will take our money?

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