Internet Communications

How has e-mail evolved?
Answered by Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Channel

    Discovery Channel

  1. E-mail has certainly come a long way. For those who remember the early beginnings of widespread e-mail use, the communication method was pretty rudimentary -- it allowed people to send and receive text messages from each other, but that was about it. There was nothing fancy about messages and no possibility of formatting them in specific fonts; no way to embed an image; and no way to send attachments.

    Soon enough, though, attachments were addressed (pun intended) in later iterations of the protocols e-mail used, and messages crafted and sent using HTML formatting became the norm. In fact, senders could even ensure that their friends could read their messages whether or not the recipient's e-mail program could read HTML -- these "multipart" messages could be sent twice in the same transmission, in both text-only and HTML formats, just as they still can be today. The recipient's client knew the user's preference and opened the message in the right format.

    Today, of course, e-mail is a fully mature platform for communication, offering fancy HTML formatting that can include embedded images as well as the text, and providing the means to attach any file a person wishes. Furthermore, we seem to be moving away from dedicated e-mail client programs. Many people today spend their e-mail time using webmail services from providers such as Yahoo, Google Gmail, Microsoft Windows Live and AOL. These services typically bundle all kinds of programs under the rubric of "webmail," such as instant messaging, video phone calls, text messaging and group chat. That's no surprise: e-mail, as a primary means of communication between people, has seen its turf invaded by texting from cell phones and people tweeting from Twitter, and services such as Skype have made video chatting a popular avenue for staying in touch. Fewer people get and send e-mail through dedicated software such as Mozilla's Thunderbird or even the AOL "you've got mail" platform of earlier days. It's a safe bet, however, that we'll always have e-mail.

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