This article was prepared by the author Eugene K. especially for this blog.

The present and future of email: she lost the competition for communication, but she's indispensable

Email for over 55 years. And more and more often one can hear the opinion that its time has passed, and social networks and instant messengers have become the center of digital communication of users. In such services, it is really much more convenient to exchange messages and interact in general. But the best virtual mail service has its advantages. In this article, we will talk about why we should not talk about fading, but about the new tasks of email and its transformation in connection with the development of neural networks and artificial intelligence.

How has the use of email changed?

There are two types of email use: for work and for personal use.

Working mail.  Its main function has practically not changed over the years. Emails are still being sent to coworkers or customers. The services themselves received new functions that make their work more convenient and efficient. For example, in mail, you can attach files directly from the cloud or edit documents online.

Personal mail.  The way we use email for personal use has changed dramatically. Now mail practically does not perform the function of communication. But in return she received new tasks. Alexey Sergeev, Deputy Vice President for Strategic Projects at Mail.Ru Group, told RSpectr,

This includes letters about hotel reservations and airline tickets, receipts from online stores, bank statements, medical test results, notifications from government agencies, and much more.

The task of modern e-mail is to help understand this huge flow of information, hide everything unnecessary and show the really important, and also make it as easy as possible to find the necessary information.

Benefits of email

There are three main advantages of email over instant messengers and social networks.

Open protocol.  Users don't need to be on the same system to send each other a message. You won't be able to write from Viber to WhatsApp, but from Bing to Gmail - please.

Deferred communication format.  Users don't expect instant responses to emails. On the one hand, this leads to the fact that mail becomes inconvenient for everyday communication. On the other hand, people usually write letters more carefully and consciously. This makes the correspondence more meaningful than communication in messengers and social networks.

Information storage and retrieval.  The e-mail format makes it easy to store and find important information that may not be useful right now, but in a week or a year: contracts, payment confirmations, insurance policies, etc. with this user is constantly being conducted.

New email features

In addition to natural advantages, email services have acquired new features in recent years that make them competitive in the digital world.

Some companies have more of them, others have less, but the trend is already clear.

Automatic sorting of letters.  The first mail to introduce smart sorting was Gmail. Incoming letters are automatically sorted into folders. Now there are five of them in Gmail: "Personal", "Travel", "Work", "Accounts" and "Categories" (with subgroups "Social networks", "Alerts", "Forums" and "Promotions"). Mailings and messages from social networks are combined into separate groups. Transactional letters are also highlighted: orders, finances, registrations, travel, tickets and fines. Emails are categorized into four categories: communication, shopping, travel, and social media.

Mailing list management.  Mailing list management function. With its help, you can view the entire list of addresses from which newsletters come, quickly unsubscribe from unnecessary ones and delete unnecessary ones. At the same time, the user will still receive transactional emails. That is, it remains possible to recover the password from the service via mail. Previously, it was possible to manage mailings only through external services. 

Payment directly in the mail.  Users, receiving notifications of fines , can pay them directly in their inbox. By the same principle, you can top up your mobile phone balance. Thus, the e-mail goes from notifying the problem to real help in solving it. Other email providers do not have similar features.

Smart answers.  This function works on the basis of a neural network, which selects suitable short answer options for a letter and offers them to the user. In 2017, it was introduced by Gmail. 

It is also worth noting that the presence of e-mail allows a person to travel and change location completely freely and at the same time always be in touch. What is the answer to the question How To Become a Digital Nomad

What features are being tested?

Smart help.  Tested by some corporate email services. "System software", artificial intelligence (AI) finds a task or an appointment in the letter and offers to check the box or add the event to the calendar. You can let the AI ​​do it on its own.

Smart answering machines.  This function is tested, for example, by the support services of various companies. AI selects the optimal response based on textual analysis of a specific customer request, which improves the perception of the service compared to template autoresponders.

Integration with smart voice assistants.  This symbiosis will allow shifting the routine operations of processing letters, making appointments and collecting information necessary for analysis on the "virtual shoulders" of AI.

What will email be like in the future?

Email is evolving along with information technology.

Talking about the near future of mail, there are  several new automation-related capabilities:

auto-creation of the subject line based on the content;
auto-translation of the text of the letter into any languages, including sign language;
intelligent assistants who choose the style of writing depending on the interlocutor (business, friendly, official, etc.)
autocomplete the answer;
search for a contact, even if it is not in the address book;
sorting emails based on the preferences of a particular user;
AI-based smart spam filters.
A lot of options can be created based on user preferences, personal information, social circle, social networks and other data that are already being collected by major players.

The email revolution will not happen, but the number of practical problems that can be solved using email will continue to grow. Perhaps, the work with the list of letters will be replaced by a completely new format of interaction, when a smart interface will itself choose everything important that requires our attention and help solve these problems as quickly and conveniently as possible.

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