eMail is for Losers

For many years I have been saying 'email is for losers'. The way email is used and the way email systems have been designed — I felt there is something fundamentally wrong with the picture.

Some examples that highlight this are:

  • people/organizations do not know how to use email — or how to manage it over the long-term (i.e. where to file it, how to store it, etc.)
  • the folder structure inherit to email systems in general is inadequate for effective information management
  • there is no reasonable retention mechanism — unless you consider a call from the IT department announcing 'you have too much email, please delete immediately' effective

Recall the 'good old times' when there was no email system and we relied on a simple system of ink/paper for sending mail. One cannot dispute that the correspondence/communication had clear structure as well the documents themselves. If this was possible for paper-based communication then why it can't be extended to electronic communication— and to any document created today?

We already have the capability to send a document within an application (MS Office, StarOffice, OpenOffice, etc.). What is lacking is the capability to store the communication ('email') in the same manner as we are able to store the other documents. Also lacking is the ability, tools, and structure to enable the inclusion of meta data on these types of documents.

What we should have is:

  • an open standard for all types of documents including email, which you can say is a document with routing properties
  • a common repository for documents— a storage architecture/database rather than relying on the file system and directory structure

It would then be possible to have a (database) engine to facilitate creation, access, and retrieval of the stored documents/data — independent of the client in use.


  • For End-users — No need to manage folders. Automated retention. Automated/assisted association between related documents
  • For IT departments - Centralized storage for all documents. More efficient and complete backup and disaster recovery processes.
  • For Business - More manageable retention policies, security and compliance.

Additional systems accessing the storage—data mining, search, collaboration, contextual association, workflow.

What it would it mean to you:

  • getting rid of systems like GroupWise, Exchange or Domino on the back end
  • keeping software which allows us to manage documents.