E-Mail …. R.I.P.?

The other day my 12-year-old daughter asked for an AIM username and password. Because I’m worried about the abuse that messaging sometimes inflicts, I asked why her e-mail account wasn’t good enough. “No one uses it anymore,” she said. “They all use AIM.”

Welcome to our future? Maybe.

Open rates are falling sharply, and not just because Outlook blocks images. About 17% of Americans change e-mail addresses every six months. Facebook is a supernova, and Twitter is expanding beyond the early adopter geeks.

I first noticed this with our members two years ago. When we surveyed them about their preferred communications vehicles, we expected to see a typical age curve for e-mail:

Instead we got something like this:

… a weakness in under-40 members’ use of e-mail.

This year, when we first asked our members to respond to our recent social technographics survey, we used e-mail. Older members (over 45) responded in due proportion. Younger members did not. To get a good sample from them, we had to solicit their participation by additional means.

I wouldn’t pronounce the death of e-mail just yet, though some are starting to. We hate e-mail, but we need it — for now. The world is ready for a better mousetrap.

Will it be Facebook? Twitter? Who knows. The killer replacement hasn’t appeared yet. But it’s going to be fun to experiment and watch.

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