Has email become the online canasta?

John Gushue
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Boy, this has been a busy year for obituaries in online technology. First, Wired magazine this summer pronounced the web as dead (arguing that the interest now is strictly in apps, not websites).

Then, earlier this month, bloggers and tech pundits were noting that email is now on the slab, too — at least as far as Facebook is concerned.

Leading up to a ballyhooed announcement, there was speculation casting Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg as an “email-killer.”

Why? Well, that was the hype leading up to Facebook’s announcement of what it will call “modern messaging,” which turns out to be not about killing off email, but rather offering a communications menu meant to make email seem, well, quaint.

Zuckerberg, who is still only 26, noted that the generation coming up behind him — the ones, he said, who make him feel old — simply don’t use email at all. It’s too formal, he said, with the full suggestion that if today’s teens and college-age kids aren’t using email now, they’re not going to warm to it later.

Facebook will be rolling out its new messaging — note again, it’s messaging, not mail — system over the next year or so; there’s no word yet on when it will come to Canada. The idea, though, is that you can send a message to someone via Facebook to anyone, anywhere, in any context.

Whatever the look and feel turns out to be like, it’s clear it’ll be speedier than email.

Will it replace email? It definitely will for some users, but I don’t think popular webmail providers like Google or Yahoo or Microsoft will be out of business. Rather, they’ll need to adapt.

Email itself has changed a great deal from the days of dial-up, when your email address could sometimes be as long as a sentence.

But things have stabilized; I’ve had my Gmail address for the better part of six years, and the only thing that’s changed in my work address is the punctuation (a period replaced the underscore between my two names).

I still think there will be a demand for work-slash-official mail, and another demand for personal mail.

It’s not just on the user’s end of things; many employers, particularly those with concerns about network security, will continue to insist on an email system that may be boring but at least is safe and sturdy.

No doubt Facebook would like to simplify things for its members, while keeping (let’s not forget) those hundreds of millions of people occupied under that conspicuously blue banner.

Earlier this fall, I noted how the TV show “The Office” was having fun with a site called wuphf.com, and a satirical poke at a one-size-fits-all social media platform.

Given where Facebook is heading, and where so many of us will undoubtedly follow, the joke may prove to be unfunny in a few years.

Elsewhere this week



I guess you could actually use this site to create some music for a particular purpose, but I found this to be a really creative way to kill a moment, and just relax. Click some of the squares and see how your mouse’s movements can change what you hear. Cute, and fascinating.

Mount St. Helen’s Remembered


I remember the Mount St. Helen’s explosion of volcanic ash from 1980 quite well. What I don’t recall seeing, though, was this range of high-quality images leading up to the dramatic eruption in May 1980.

Thirty years ago, it would have been possible to see a few of these sorts of pictures in something like National Geographic; it’s a reminder of the instructive power of the web that something like this is now so widely available.

Acme Archives Direct


Have a movie or TV fan on your Christmas list, and — to be blunt — some cash to spend? Acme Archives Direct sells high-quality posters, animation cells and other products related to Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Disney movies, the Simpsons … the list goes on.

If you’d like to see a jaw drop when the gift is unwrapped, consider this online store.

John Gushue is an online editor with CBC News in St. John’s. Twitter: @johngushue. Blog: johngushue.typepad.com.

Organizations: Wired magazine, Google, Yahoo Microsoft National Geographic CBC News

Geographic location: Canada

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