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Personal email is dead — but I still can't quit it

  • Google and Microsoft still invest in email clients, but personal email is dead.
  • Businesses still use email but are moving toward clients like Slack, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts.
CNBC | Katie Brigham

Microsoft and Google continue to invest in new email applications — Google just released a new version of Gmail, for example — but personal email is basically dead.

I can think of two times in the last several years where I relied on using a personal email account: When I was buying a house and had to discuss the purchase with several parties, including a lawyer, mortgage broker, and real estate agent. The second time was when I was in contact for a new job and needed to send around a resume. That could have been done just as easily with a text message.

Over the past several weeks, I've noticed that my personal email inbox is almost nothing but advertisements and deals.

Right now, for example, my inbox has offers from Brooks Brothers, eBay, Hilton Honors, Kayak, Goodreads and Bloomingdale's. The last message I opened was one from my brother two days ago pointing me to an interesting story in The New York Times, a note he could have — and usually does — send by text message.

It's annoying to even open my personal inbox now, even though I use Gmail's tools to automatically sort it as much as possible. (Follow my guide to clean up your email inbox.)

Messenging services such as WhatsApp, iMessage, regular text messages, GroupMe, Skype, Facebook Messenger and Twitter have eliminated my need for a personal email address. It's in those apps where I spend most of my time.

If a family member shares photos — which years ago almost exclusively happened over e-mail with a link to an album in Flickr or elsewhere — he or she can now share a link to a full album in Apple Photos or Google Photos. When it's shared, I get an alert on my phone to open those apps directly instead of via email.

Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook all have clients for sharing video clips, again something we once might have emailed, and iMessage or text messages work just as well if not better.

Email still lives on at work ... for now

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I still use email for work, which is the only reason I don't think it's completely dead. Hundreds of emails come in daily.

Some emails are pitches for product reviews or stories, while others include dozens of people at CNBC. It's those instances where email still makes sense — where I need to see a large group message or reach a lot of people at once. I can quickly scan a message topic to see if it's important, instead of scrolling through a huge chain of texts as I'd do in WhatsApp, GroupMe or another aforementioned client.

Even businesses are relying less on email, though.

We use clients like Slack and Convo to stay in touch with colleagues throughout the day for more immediate messages. Microsoft and Google see the importance of these chatroom-style tools, too. Microsoft Teams competes with Slack, for example, and Google Hangouts is becoming an enterprise client instead of a consumer tool.

I can't quit

Subs: Computer email spam
wolterfoto | ullstein bild | Getty Images

I'd quit using personal email entirely, but doing so is too much of a hassle.

I'd have to reach out to hundreds of people and let them know it's no longer a way to reach me, and even still I'd worry about missing out on messages. It's also why, in addition to the enterprise user base, Google and Microsoft continue to invest in improvements to Gmail, Exchange and Outlook.

My generation — I'm in my mid-30s — seems to use chat clients much more than my parents' generation, which still frequently send emails. As millennials and younger groups age, however, there's less of a need for personal email to exist.