The Future Of Email : The Internet’s Least Exciting Application

Email is not sexy.

That is to say, the design and functionality of electronic mail, since its inception, have remained fundamentally consistent and relatively unexciting— we type out messages, send them to our contacts and wait for a reply.

In 10 years, that foundation will still exist, but we’ll likely have a lot more options.

According to experts, such as Yesware founder Matthew Bellows, the time for email to expand and innovate is now.

“There was an idea that email was dead a few years ago,” Bellows tells Mashable. “That’s just not true, obviously.”

Though competing messaging platforms and other options have come and gone, email has remained perhaps the primary use of the Internet since it began. When Gmail entered the mix 10 years ago, the seeds of evolution were planted. Now, email seems due for another great change.

We reached out to developers and designers like Bellows to see what those changes will look like, and how they’ll affect the way we send and receive email.

1. The dawn of third-party applications

Currently, most major email providers do not expressly support third-party applications. This makes it challenging for other companies, beyond the provider, to increase the usefulness of email as a whole for users with niche needs. For Bellows and the team at Yesware, whose tool is built on top of preexisting email providers to allow users simpler solutions to common business problems, this fact makes it difficult to grow.

“We’re kind of hacked in right now,” Bellows says. “Every time Gmail changes, we have to change.”

According to Bellows, email providers would be wise to encourage more and easier third-party programming. He believes that when Facebook launched its “Facebook Platform” for third-party development in 2007, the value of its service exploded. Users could go to Facebook for niche interests such as gaming, and all Facebook had to do was open the door. Users stayed on Facebook longer, third-party developers had an easier time reaching customers and your over-sharing aunt was able to play Farmville to her heart’s content.

In 10 years, Bellows sees third-party development exploding on email services like Gmail.

“I don’t think [Gmail is] against it, I think it’s a matter of priority for them,” says Bellows. “I think it says something that in the meantime, they haven’t shut us down.”

Gmail Product Manager Alex Gawley doesn’t disagree with Bellows prediction, but sees third-party development happening in different ways.

“It’s less about third-party devs building on top of Gmail than building within the emails that they send,” Gawley tells Mashable. To him, the future will be about senders putting richer information within emails — package tracking data, surveys, etc. — rather than building apps to improve the service itself.

2. Smarter input, history and management

“What’s going to be constant is this:

We will be sending each other electronic messages and we will have way too many of them

We will be sending each other electronic messages and we will have way too many of them,” Bellows says.

According to him, the usefulness of speech recognition tools such as the iPhone’s Siri have yet to be fully developed. In the future, he believes more of us will send emails through voice input programs rather than keyboards. Pointing to Google Glass as an example, Bellows sees email adjusting and adapting to innovative new tech in ways that, for now, remain largely speculative.

Augmented intelligence, Bellows says, will help us figure out what to say, along with whom to say it to. And our conversation histories will more adequately inform us about whom we speak to and and how we know them. All of this, it seems, will help to increase the productivity of the ever-increasing pool of digital workers.

3. Personalized design

Kevin Fox, former user experience design lead at Google and the original creator of the Gmail interface, sees the future of email design evolving on a similar path to that of the greater web.

Email is so much the lowest common denominator in terms of design

Email is so much the lowest common denominator in terms of design,” Fox tells Mashable. “Lots of communication that would’ve been done through email 10 years ago is now being done through chat, social networks and texting.”

More than ever, there is reason for email providers to start thinking seriously about design. To Fox, this means a greater focus on message building. Similar to Twitter bios or Facebook cover photos, Fox believes the emails you compose in the future will have more user personality included.

According to Fox, message composing could adapt a system somewhat similar to pre-built template documents, creating greater ease in messaging, depending on whom you’re communicating with.

4. Large user growth through mobile

Approximately 6 billion people will be using email in 10 years, according to Bellows. As more of the world’s population gets connected, the need for innovation and structural changes will only grow. Experts agree that most of those users will come from mobile.

“Mobile usage is growing very fast — that’s why we’ve invested so heavily in it,” Gawley says. “That’s certainly where we see a lot of growth.”

According to Fox, the increase in mobile use will likely lead to more ways users can send emails. “Email on mobile devices is more of a reading tool,” he says. “You’ll compose a message if you have to, but it’ll be shorter and there’ll be mistakes.”

Fox believes more and more emails will be created in ways other than through simply opening a compose window typing up a message.

While the future of email is largely hypothetical at this point in time, it seems clear that it will finally get a bit more exciting.

Huge Thanks to Max Knoblauch, you can find the original article here.