Why I still use e-mail over Skype Chat

Sep 19, 2006

A while ago, we published this piece saying Skype chat is greater than e-mail. (corrected, thanks Jim)

Chatting is one of Skype’s main features apart from calling and contact management. And we’d like to tell you of our hidden agenda of making Skype Chat an e-mail killer.

Yep… this is what I wrote with my own little bare hands.

Yet months go by, and what I find is that in business communications, I still send tons and tons of e-mail. Granted, I’m probably among the top few percent of Skype chat heavy users as well so I “do my part” so to speak, producing all those silly little chat messages :) but chat hasn’t really killed e-mail for me.

So… how come e-mail is better? What’s Skype chat lacking in? (meaning “what are we working on?”)

  • Predictable, guaranteed delivery. This is the #1 complaint we receive about the Skype Chats. Andy just posted it last week. Either you see people offline but they are online, or they are really offline, and in any case, the messages just don’t go through. So you can’t really just write a chat message and fire away, you need to take time to make sure that it actually gets delivered. With e-mail, you can fire away and you know that it either goes through or comes back with a proper error message, but you don’t need to be online at the same time with the recipient.
  • Organization. I can organize email in a zillion ways. I can mark it read and unread, flag it, move it around in folders and hierarchies of folders… Like it says in the ad, “you should see what this guy can do with the spreadsheet. It’s insane” :) I’m definitely the PC of that ad. I have a crazy and complicated fuzzy system of hierarchical folders. It’s difficult to understand and I keep changing it, but it also means that coupled with my memory and remembering “yeah.. there was an email about that”, I can pull out any email about anything in a few seconds, because I know where it was filed.
    In Skype chats, you can’t really yet do much any of this. History is retained, which is very nice, but it’s not too convenient to manage. You can’t “flag” things or mark them “unread” to come back to at a later time.
  • Spam. Email spam is a moot point for me, because I keep using a (literally) killer feature of Thunderbird that simply gets rid of spam. And I’ve been training the filter for more than a year or so and it is simply SUPER GOOD by now. I keep receiving hundreds and hundreds of spams per day and the filter kills them with a really nonexistent amount of false positives/negatives. So I can live with it. Fortunately, it’s a moot point for me in Skype as well, as I haven’t really set my sex to Female and thus don’t receive chat spam from eager youngster happy puppies or much anyone else.

Now… there are caveats to this obviously. I previously listed six “up” points for chat, and all those still hold true, versus only the three you can see above for e-mail. And I’m a rare control freak who values e-mail organization probably a lot more than most other folks. Since I wrote the last piece, Skype has got a lot better. For example, all your chats are on the History tab so you can find them just fine if you know what you’re looking for.

But still… how about a teeny tiny “mark unread” or “flag” thing for chats?