Bell who many have swipped the phone from Elisha Gray

In an interview with Read Write Web, Ray Tomlinson, a principal engineer at BBN Technologies and the so-called “father of email” [if you ignore the earlier work of Tom Van Vleck and Noel Morris] recasts youth’s trending decline in email use by redefining email into something so broad that that word in his mind stands for any messaging system.

Soft rock is not rock and roll despite the presence of rock in the phrase; most of what Tomlinson is willing to call email is simply not that at all.

This is not to diminish Tomlinson’s accomplishment in some of email’s creation including the use of the @, but to say that email is not all electronic messaging. Email has a definition and a strong one that can keep Tomlinson’s good, if dated, work from vanishing into an undefinable mist of meaning.

Once again, Tomlinson confesses that email started on the wrong foot. No “Mr. Watson, come here — I want to see you.” moment. No “One small step for man.” But the first message was”one of a number of “entirely forgettable” test messages.” We now call that spam. A good part of the RWW article is dedicated to the legacy of spam and Tomlinson’s solution–strong identity requirements.

What is ignored is that we have identity in the form of white lists and friends lists that are part and parcel of social communications systems. Something similar exists in email systems but only in the most jerry-rigged sort of way.

New communications must be mobile, terse, highly interactive, allow for collaboration in an integrated fashion. That’s not email.

Email is over. It limps like a zombie looking for brains to devour. Its creator won’t acknowledge that fact even as pieces and parts of email fall on the bloody floor.

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