The History and Future of Email


Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Email has been around for 50 years and plays an enormous part in our lives. Whether for business or personal use, it’s a must-have for many people. But in the modern age, is usage still increasing or has it lost its position compared to other communication methods?

A Brief History

Before we get into the answer and some metrics, let’s look at some milestones over the years. (We would like to thank Email on Acid for providing the history).

1971 – The Birth of Electronic Mail

Ray Tomlinson is the name mainly attributed to email creation. Whilst working at ARPANET (a government-funded project which eventually turned into the Internet), Tomlinson created a program which allowed for email communication between connected computers. Yes, it was basic, but that’s where the story started over 50 years ago.

1978 – The First SPAM

We all suffer from SPAM. However, what is less well-known is how long we have been suffering! According to history, the first SPAM came from Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). However, this early attempt was a lot more successful than SPAM today. DEC claimed that $13M of sales came from the promotion, a significant amount back in 1978.

1982 to 1986 – Making Usage Easier

During these years, developers created software which formed the base of what we still use today. For example, SMTP, POP3 and IMAP came out in the 1980s. These acronyms may not mean much to you, but if you use email today, you are using one of these services.

1992 – Adding Media

Email was a dull and text-heavy place before 1992. Then, during this year, the capability to add images and media was born. Suddenly, email became much more colourful, but it was still cumbersome.

1993 to 1996 – Webmail is born

During these years, Webmail evolved considerably to combat the requirement of using a specific program. In addition, significant companies Hotmail and Yahoo were created and promoted as part of consumer service offerings.

2002 – Wireless Email

And now enter that company called Blackberry. Blackberry were very popular in the early 2000s, and that was primarily to do with mobile email. So many businesses took it up, and Blackberry rocked the market for a while.

2004 – Gmail Makes Takes the Lead

GMAIL, a tremendous player, made email much easier to use. GMAIL was created by Google, with the legend being that it took just one day!

2010 – Emails that work well on Mobile Devices

With the uptake of mobile devices, email was improved to look better on mobile devices. We don’t remember this now, but email used to only look good on a desktop. From this year, that all changed.

2014 to 2018 – SPAM Wars

SPAM was becoming a severe problem for email users. From 2014 onwards, legislation grew to ensure a world with less SPAM. This started the ball rolling for opt-in and opt-out marketing, and many mail providers increased their focus on SPAM detection. Furthermore, privacy came to the forefront with the formation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act.

2020 – The COVID-19 Pandemic

Where would we have been without email during the COVID-19 pandemic? When the world was working from home, email played an essential part in keeping us connected. It is incredible to think that this 50-year-old technology would save us all during 2020 and 2021.

Is email here to stay?

The short answer is yes, and it’s growing in terms of users and the amount sent.

Over the years, chat software and mobile messaging, such as text, have changed our communication. But that has not stopped the usage and growth of email. In 2020, the total number of users was estimated at 4 billion. And that number is set to increase to 4.6 billion users by 2025.

The actual amount of emails sent is also increasing. For example, 269 billion left inboxes in 2017, with a projection of a further increase to 376 billion in 2025. It is an enormous jump and underlines how email will remain part of our lives for many years to come.

Graph showing email growth between 2017 and 2025
Thanks to Statista for the above chart

Stay connected

Since email is here to stay, the good news is that SaneChoice offers an affordable and reliable solution. OX Business Email is a powerful email, communication and collaboration solution that gives you secure, reliable and professional email, calendaring, contacts and more.

SaneChoice started in 2004 when a customer was frustrated by their hosting provider at the time. Since that year, SaneChoice has been providing technology services to clients worldwide, with a strong focus on helping small businesses understand technology.

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