Sun, 11 Mar 2012 13:05:02 +0000
Web-based email was one of features responsible for breaking down the barriers to entry to the internets websites. In order to register for sites or purchase items, an email address was and often still is needed for verification. Yet in the early days, Outlook and desktop-based email were not accessible to everyone, and required an intimate rapport with the user’s computer. It was not available on other devices either. It also needed to be checked, in the sense that a user had to sit in from of their computer to see their emails. The rise of web-based email like Hotmail and Yahoo! enabled a greater range of people to access the potential of the web, particularly those without their own computers.
As the web grew, web-based email made increasing amounts of sense; people did not want to lose emails and storage space was growing rapidly. Really, it was the first form of cloud computing that reached the masses. An application delivered to a computer via the computing power of the internet, ten years before anyone heard of a “cloud.”
Gmail made a huge splash and people flocked to it because it was reliable, had tons of space, and was built into a platform that people were already attracted to. It is hard today to find someone who spends anytime online who doesn’t have multiple web-based email addresses, unfortunately firstname.lastname@example.org was already taken.
Alas, like all other tides that have risen in the last decade and a half, it appears that web-based email is dropping off. ComScore reported a 22% drop in time spent on web-based email sites compared to last year. This is coming at a time when people are communicating more than ever, so how to explain the numbers?
Texting is skyrocketing, with over 75% of America’s young adults texting at least once a day. Instant messaging services like BBM and Facebook reduce the need for cumbersome emails. Twitter provides another way to send a quick message, especially if it is meant to stir the pot a little bit.
Email itself is still going strong, it is really the mobile phone that is depressing the numbers for web-based email. Each technology manufacturer has built mail programs or apps directly, which deliver emails automatically without the need to check for them at their sites of origin. As the costs of these devices have dropped to the point where each person has their own way to access their email, it has in a way circled around to the early days of Outlook and desktop-based mail. The difference is that the email is accessible from other places, just in case one feels inclined to “check” their email.