Email deserves better than this
One thing that keeps the World Wide Web so fresh, relevant and widely used is the fact that the W3C
regularly approves new standards that become part of the way browsers are expected to work. Meanwhile, for all we rely on email, its core technology hasn’t changed much in decades.
Think about it – all the innovations in the field of email are features that could be baked into a standard that would make life easier for everyone.
Most recently there’s ‘snooze’ – the ability to archive a message and have it return to your inbox at a certain time when you’re ready to deal with it – but other features like message priority and 'recalling’ emails have existed in certain email software for years without being universally supported.
It’s tough to predict how your email will be handled when it’s received. Think about the politician or PR person desperately trying to 'recall’ a mistakenly sent email, perhaps not known that it will only be worthwhile if the person at the other end uses Microsoft Outlook and hasn’t read the email yet.
Send a 'recall’ request from Outlook to a Gmail account, and the recipient will still have the original email, plus a 'recall request’ email, which makes opening the original email all the more appealing – what didn’t they want me to read?
And 'snooze’ is a common feature in modern email apps, but it’s one that encourages you to stick to one app and never switch. Snooze an email in Gmail, and Gmail will send it back to your inbox at the time you requested. Snooze a Gmail email in Outlook, and Microsoft’s servers handle it, likewise with the myriad email-focused startups. I once tried five email apps in a week and completely lost track of where all my snoozes were being tracked. It’s also why I have five different 'snooze’ labels in my Gmail.
All of this is to say; I wish we had an email standards body comparable to the W3C. From 1996 to 2002 there was an Internet Mail Consortium
that could have fulfilled this role, but no such organisation exists today. As a result, email is a messy Wild West of confusing technologies. Sure, email is long in the tooth, and we all love to hate it, but it deserves better than that.