Email – a brief history
In 1969, the world’s first electronic message – one single word – was sent within ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), a computer network in the United States. Two years later, Ray Tomlinson introduced the “@”symbol to separate the different elements in an email address. Over the years adoption in business was high and several changes to email occurred, but one of the most important ones was probably CompuServe, the first online service that offered internet connectivity and a proprietary service for email in 1989. From then on, it was no longer necessary to be part of a certain network to send emails; internet users were able to send and receive emails between internet-based email addresses opening email use to all. With the internet gaining more and more traction in the 1990s, the number of email providers rose, as did the number of email users and emails sent and received. In 2004, Google launched Gmail, offering each user an unprecedented 1 GB in storage capacity for free.
In the last 20 years, email has been firmly established as the primary tool for business communication, which is a remarkable achievement if one takes into consideration how old its technology is. So how come email has made it thus far, what exactly is it that email has to offer? Does it really stand a chance against competing technologies such as messenger services and cloud-based collaboration platforms?
Arguably one of email’s biggest advantages against new and competing technologies is that it is not a proprietary technology owned by a single company. This is very commonly the case with messenger services or cloud-based collaborative platforms, which makes their use as communication tools potentially very problematic for enterprises in a business environment. Email is on the contrary independent and offers many possibilities: messages and documents can be exchanged, and archiving and encryption are possible as well (albeit it is fairly complex to do so). With its basic standard, SMTP and IMAP, email has a wide range of uses. By now, it has become not just familiar but universal, and virtually everybody in a business context uses it regularly.