Can E-Mail Be Saved?

Can E-Mail Be Saved?.

The cover story of Monday's InfoWorld is Can e-mail be saved? Reporter Paul Boutin solicited the opinion of six industry insiders to answer the question. Here's the section of the article that includes Ray Ozzie's viewpoints on the topic:

Creator of Lotus Notes, the groupware used by 100 million people, Ray Ozzie has spent years studying how people use their inboxes. His current company, Groove Networks, produces software that allows people inside and outside an organization to share workspaces and files over a secure, peer-to-peer connection. But Ozzie is aware that Groove's biggest competitor is e-mail. “For most users of the Internet,” he says, “e-mail is the preferred means of swapping information — whether text or files — because it's easy to use and it usually works, even across firewalls.”

Yet Ozzie feels e-mail has been pushed to the breaking point, past the limits of its original, intended purpose. “At a time when we are needing new methods to cope with information overload, the e-mail paradigm is showing its 30-year-old age,” he says, resulting in lower and lower productivity gains. “Not only are there the obvious issues of spam and viruses; it's now quite common that large files and common file types such as .doc are not allowed to pass through firewalls because of aggressive IT bandwidth, storage, and e-mail-filtering policies.”

Ozzie doesn't claim Groove is the solution for all these issues. Rather, it's one part of a strategy to move workplace activities out of, rather than into, e-mail. “Rather than trying to cram all sorts of new things into e-mail, we should listen to what's actually happening at the leading edge of the market: Instant messaging is a tremendously useful paradigm that takes interpersonal communications in a new direction. Skype [which lets PC users make phone calls to each other over the Net] sits next to e-mail quite nicely, thank you. RSS readers and aggregators are showing us that there are better ways to do notifications and publish/subscribe than filling our inbox.” Groove, for its part, provides a security-wrapped workspace for collaboration and shared documents, rather than keeping them in e-mail folders.

In short, Ozzie has no interest in re-inventing e-mail. “The question,” he says, “is: 'What new and more appropriate paradigms will emerge to reflect the fact that, in this world of ubiquitous computing and communications, the nature of work is fundamentally changing?”  [ Weblog]

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