Tackling the Unsolvable Problem: The Bottomless Email Inbox

But I still wouldn’t pay for Hey because of some of the flaws I experienced.

Testing Hey made me reminisce about a time when email brought joy. In the days of AOL in the 1990s, we relied on email to send notes to friends and family.

When Gmail emerged in the mid-2000s, Google offered a free, searchable inbox with more storage, eliminating the need to delete emails. But that widely used service hasn’t changed much since its inception.

In other words, email became boring.

Plenty of companies have attempted a more delightful email experience. In 2013, Dropbox acquired Mailbox, an app that helped users declutter their inboxes, for $100 million. Dropbox killed the app in 2015, after concluding it could not “fundamentally fix email.”

After testing Hey, I looked closely at my devices and noticed a trend. The overwhelming majority of my digital conversations with family, friends and co-workers happen on messaging apps like iMessage, Google Hangouts and Slack. My email accounts have turned into a passive channel for receiving receipts and newsletters.

This may be the case for many people. People from 16 to 44 years old spend more time in apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Twitter than they use Gmail, and people older than that spend more time using Gmail than messaging apps, said Amir Ghodrati, director of market insights at App Annie, a research firm.

So where does this leave us?

Email may no longer be fun, because many of us have moved on. But it may also never be gone, because it’s a universal communication platform that lets anyone talk to anyone, which makes it both horrible and great at the same time. Perhaps that is just a reality we will have to accept.

In the meantime, my iPhone mailbox says I have about 118,000 unread email messages. I’ll get right on to ignoring them.

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