Email was a revolutionary invention in communications and technology when it began. However, since the discovery of Gmail—launched on April 1, 2004, and not an April Fool’s Day joke—email hasn’t innovated all that much.
Let's take a look at email history and how it has evolved over the years.
The very first version of what would become known as email—an “electronic message”—was invented in 1965 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as part of the university’s Compatible Time-Sharing System. The system allowed users to share files and messages on a central disk, even though they were logging in from remote terminals.
A computer programmer, Ray Tomlinson, working for the U.S. government, conceived of the method for sending email between different computers: he introduced the “@” sign to allow messages to be targeted to certain users on certain machines. This network on which this was built was the Arpanet at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), considered the forerunner to the modern internet.
Tomlinson reportedly has since forgotten what that very first email message said.
The first email standard was proposed in 1973 at Darpa and finalized within Arpanet in 1977, including common things such as the to and from fields, and the ability to forward emails to others who were not initially a recipient.
The first version of Microsoft Mail was released in 1988 for Mac OS, allowing users of Apple’s AppleTalk Networks to send messages to each other. In 1991, a second version was released for other platforms, including DOS and Windows, which laid the groundwork for Microsoft’s later Outlook and Exchange email systems.
Although founded in 1969 as a computer time-sharing service, CompuServe became the first online service to offer internet connectivity via dial-up phone connections. Its proprietary email service allowed other internet users to send emails to each other.
Also that year, the word e-mail entered the Oxford English dictionary.
The email attachment was created when the Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (Mime) protocol was released. Suddenly, inbox limits get reached more quickly due to large file sizes of attachments.
The first version of Microsoft’s Outlook was released, as was Internet service provider (ISP) America Online with its version of email.
The term spam is coined by Ray Everett-Church, an Information Specialist with the Washington, D.C.-based American Immigration Lawyers Association. Everett-Church noticed the first massive commercial message campaign on a Usenet newsgroup and decided to do something about it. He soon co-founded the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email, one of the largest anti-spam organizations in the world.
Hotmail launches. It was one of the first email services not tied to a particular ISP and it featured HTML-based email formatting, considered novel at the time. Hotmail was bought by Microsoft in 1997, rebranded MSN Hotmail, then Windows Live Hotmail, and finally replaced by Outlook.com in 2013.
Starting life as an internal mail system for Google employees, Gmail was developed by Paul Buchheit in 2001. A limited, invite-only beta release arrived in 2004, and Gmail was finally made publicly available in 2007. It dropped its “beta” status in 2009.
Not a whole lot has changed in the history of email in the past decade. Despite advances in real-time communication with tools and platforms such as iMessage, Slack, and WhatsApp, email hasn’t advanced.
What is the future of email?
With a long history, it’s time email considered getting back to its roots.
It’s still a personalized, one-to-one and one-to-many communication method that people feel ownership of and connected to.
Email nowadays may be accessed on different devices. However, users know that some of the most important work-related messages arrive not via text, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Slack, or Teams but rather by email.
As such, it’s not going away anytime soon.
Email just needs a way to become more effective and efficient. It needs to be more intuitive so users can find and read the most important messages quickly and not have to worry about unwanted email ruining productivity. Users simply want more control, convenience, and inbox management.
InMoat helps them achieve this.