For those of you who actually read my blog, you know that I am a big fan of G-Mail, and Google Talk. I was very pleased that they integrated IM and presence into e-mail. Just like Microsoft has done, albeit with a different set of features, to outlook and office. Yet today, Yahoo announced that it too is integrating IM into it's web mail client. Finally we are seeing the convergence of IM and e-mail, with the only distinction to be whether or not the user is currently available to chat. I would think that this is a good thing, but there is one reason holding back the rays of light between the clouds - my Brother.
No, my brother isn't some kind of evil dictator nor does he work for any of the aforementioned companies. But my brother is, at least for me, a prime example of what might soon happen - the loss of formality in e-mail. My brother is one of those people who's first exposure to communications on the Internet was IM. What's wrong with that? Simple - its not a formal means of communication.
When e-mail was introduced, it was simply a means to communicate formal communication via an electronic medium. In simple terms, people used e-mail to type up the same memos as before, however they now didn't need to make 500 physical copies of them, but could distribute them almost instantly. Despite the influx of spam, forwards, and viruses, e-mail today still has that level of formality.
IM on the other hand, was a way of talking with text (and now voice and video via the computer). Since we all talk faster than we type, a shorthand evolved. And since e-mail was primarily an informal means of communication, people were willing to forgo things like grammar and punctuation for the sake of expediency.
Enter the AOL generation. Somehow, because they are IM'ers first and an e-mailers second, the lines between the two are very blurred. These are the people who will use IM shorthand in e-mails all the time. The people who are reminded by their first bosses that e-mail communications needs to be formatted in proper English. It's a hard enough battle as it is, think of how much harder it will be now that the software companies are blurring those lines.
I hope that despite this innovation, people will still be able to write a decent letter every once in a while.