In 1998, it was possible to make a big-screen romantic comedy about email. Yep, email — the same medium we often think of now as boring and even annoying. Back then, it was perfectly plausible that two attractive characters played by two attractive movie stars (Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan) could fall in love over AOL email and each be thrilled to hear the service's iconic, cheerful audio alert: "You've got mail." That was also the name of the film, which garnered a respectable 73 percent from top critics on Rotten Tomatoes. The trailer feels like a time machine now.
Of course, today, such digital romance would take place using some combination of Tinder, texting and maybe Snapchat (though the two leads seem too old to fit the Snapchat target demo, so maybe iMessage and FaceTime). Email would never be considered a common path to love, even one believable enough for a movie.
Email is a senior citizen. It's been around since at least the 1960s in one form or another. In the 1990s and early 2000s, there was a hot competition among consumer email services like Yahoo Mail, Hotmail and Gmail.
Now, young people shun email as much as possible. Even for adults, answering an email rarely seems urgent, and that red counter of unread emails often climbs into the thousands.
A conversation in the talk bubbles of a messaging service, or on Slack, Twitter or Facebook, demands — and receives — faster action.
I was an early user of AOL, so early I didn't even have a number after my user name. For me, email was once vital, both for personal and business uses. But, like a lot of you reading this, if my phone or laptop today happily called out "You've got mail," I'd be tempted to smash it. Today's email competition is all about mobile apps that help you manage the email mess with minimum hassle.