Chat: the future of communication

The future of business and personal communication lies with chat platforms.

Modern chat platforms combine the best of all previous forms of communication. Chat can function as an asynchronous messaging system like emails or letters, and also provide instant messaging like a phone call if/when that's how you need to use it. Chat is generally just text and perhaps a few embedded images or videos, but I also consider video messaging platforms like Skype as a form of modern chat platfiorm. It seems a safe prediction that chat will ultimately replace email altogether.

Historically the main appeal of chat platforms, e.g. AOL IM, Windows Live Messenger, Facebook chat, etc, has been for personal communication. But chat is increasingly becoming the forum of choice for workplace communication and even meetings. In many workplaces the Communicator platform that comes with MS Office has introduced workers to chat as a business platform. Chatrooms are replacing distribution lists for team/topic discussion, e.g. in HipChat which is used within the online department at my workplace (Lync is also widely used here and that supports video stand-up meetings, group chatrooms. Microsoft Office Communicator was the dominant communication platform at my previous workplace). In my first job after uni, in a large multi-national corporation (with big HQs in Palo Alto as well as the UK, Japan, mainland Europe, etc) paper memos were still used alongside email and bits of physical paper headed "Internal Memorandum" were still passed around and filed in big racks. A paper memo has a To field, but CC was literally a carbon copy on NCR paper. The most important memos were periodically archived by microfilming onto analog physical media for off-site storage. How times have changed.

The tech revolution is the biggest event in the history of our species on this planet. It's much bigger and much faster even than the industrial revolution. In particular, the digital revolution has transformed the way we communicate with each other. When the digital revolution first exploded into exponential growth in the 1990s with the widespread adoption of the web, faxing was still the most popular method of sending documents. It seems antiquated now. In the early days, nobody saw the huge success of email coming, or indeed the extraordinary popularity that SMS would attain (text-messaging/texting was originally intended only for sending simple network notifications).

Chat continues to grow in popularity, overtaking SMS for the first time last year. Emails are already starting to seem old and clunky in comparison. Chat will continue to gain usage, at the expense of alternative methods of communicating. Facebook messages had already started to replace emails for many people (integrated with Windows Live Messenger) before messages and chat were consolidated on that platform.

Email is dead. Long live chat. Email services that have become ubiquitous, like Gmail and Hotmail/, will be consigned to a nostalgic historical record on Wikipedia.

03 February 2014

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Tim Acheson (17 Mar 14, 14:11)

Related: A Day of Communication at GitHub

"The vast majority of everything we do happens in chat. ..." - Github

Tim Acheson (07 Aug 14, 09:42)


Children (age 16-24) do 19% of communication by email vs 42%+ for adults (age 45+). Why? Rise of social media and chat. Email is dying.

An historic report by Ofcom on communication in the UK reveals the high rate of the trend away from email, with email being rapidly overtaken by newer platforms.

Source: Offcom -- overview, full report (PDF)

Tim Acheson (01 Apr 15, 10:37)

WhatsApp adds voice calls for Android!

The chat revolution continues...

Tim Acheson (23 Aug 18, 11:06)


"The partnership comes at a pivotal time for corporate chat software, with Microsoft ramping up competition with a rival product called Teams that’s immediately available for 135 million Office cloud subscribers."

Note: Microsoft already leads in this space with Skype which unofficially dominates corporate chat, voice and video calls.

Tim Acheson (13 Mar 21, 10:27)

The pandemic has dramatically accelerated the trend: Slack didn’t break remote working, your colleagues did (Wired UK)

According to Slack’s own figures, we have become far more reliant on messaging as a form of communication. The time people spend sending messages to each other ballooned from one hour and 15 minutes in February 2021 to almost two hours a month later. ...

"Microsoft Teams is in the same camp: it recorded a 72 per cent increase in instant messages sent in March 2020 alone. Its latest figures show that managers sent 115 per cent more instant messages during March 2020 than in January or February, while individual contributors saw their instant messages jump more than 50 per cent."

As I blogged in 2011: "Working from home solves some of the key problems ... Huge numbers of people commute on a daily basis, driving cars, cramming onto trains and buses, etc -- with the transport infrastructure subsidised by public funds. We don't do it for fun. Meanwhile, the preferred alternatives (especially working from home) receive no such subsidees! It is ridiculous, and it is unsustainable. A cultural change is desperately needed, but to achieve it will require a new infrastructure, along with a new mindset for smart 21st-century living."


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