Is it time to move on from using email?

This week is going to be slightly different, in that I am going to pose a question and then go on to explain a few things as I see them. That question is, do you think email has had it’s day?

Sunday, 14th September 2014, 1:05 pm
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

Let me begin by explaining, I gave a talk at Pulborough Computer Club last week and during the ensuing discussion, I mentioned email spoofing. The story goes like this, I had a Yahoo account for many years, but which I had stopped using. It got hacked a couple of times and by the third time it happened, I decided it was time to delete my account permanently. This I did several months ago, but miraculously even just a few days before I gave my presentation, people I know were still receiving emails from the compromised address.

What had happened is that the account had been spoofed, meaning someone else was masquerading as me, with no direct access to my old account at all. I checked and verified the Yahoo account no longer exists.

This is a big problem for email technology, because there really is no way to stop someone spoofing your email address. That means you can never truly know who or what is sending you a message and if it is your account that gets spoofed, it can create a real headache for you!

What is missing from email, is the social verification that is present in social media. You can see who is contacting you. They have a name and a face. Social networks also give you much greater controls when dealing with spammers, trolls (they are the ones who just like to start arguments) and people you want to ignore. The reason they can do this, is because any account that tries to make contact with you, is on the exact same network that you are. If you report a particular individual and block them, not only are they blocked by you, but potentially the rest of the network as well. That is something that simply cannot happen with email, because each email server is separate. Yes, you may hit that Junk button, but it won’t stop a spammer sending out millions of emails to everyone else.

Now, some of you may be thinking, “Ah, but with email I have complete control. They are mine.” That is true for businesses that host their own email servers, but what about all those individuals and corporations that don’t host their own emails? Gmail, Yahoo, BT and all offer email services to the world at large and I have only mentioned some of the more well known ones. Also you can export your data from the likes of Google+ and Facebook, so the ownership argument becomes a moot point.

Given the drawbacks of email and the rise of social media, has email had it’s day?