You've Got Mail?

by Jessica Andrews

In 1998, the movie You've Got Mail came out and the computers and technology in it were very up to date, but today it's almost laughable. Almost no one uses dial-up internet, and in fact, not nearly as many people seem to use email to communicate anymore. Even in You've Got Mail there is a scene where the two main characters use instant messenger to talk instead of their normal emails. While my parents' generation still uses email to write letters back and forth, my generation seems to use email for turning in assignments and writing to co-workers. The movie foreshadowed what was to come: the replacement of email in social situations with instant messenger, blogging, and networks such as MySpace and Facebook.


Email is much older than most people think; it was created before the Internet, from very simple beginnings. Early email was basically what today is known as a file directory; "It put a message in another user's directory in a spot where they could see it when they logged in" (Peter). Before internetworking began, email was only capable of sending messages to different users on the same computer. However, eventually we developed the ability to send messages to each other over networks, but then the issues became more complex. There was no way to address the message across the network. An indication of who the proper recipient was needed to be created, allowing for electronic posts to be understood. As Peter says, "Just like the postal system, we needed a way to indicate an address" (Peter).

To solve this problem, Ray Tomlinson is credited with inventing email in 1972. Tomlinson worked as an ARPANET contractor for Bolt Beranek and Newman, where he learned networking skills. He chose the @ symbol from the computer keyboard to indicate messages were from one computer to another. With the development of the World Wide Web, email became available due to different web interfaces created by providers such as Yahoo and Hotmail. Once email became affordable, "Everyone wanted at least one email address, and the medium was adopted by not just millions, but hundreds of millions of people" (Peter).

The Decline

Email is still very popular with generations out of college, but it is slowly being replaced for younger generations. One of the first things to steal attention from email was the concept of blogging. The term blog is actually a blending of the words web and log. Basically, a blog is like an online diary in which the writer posts his or her feelings for the world to read. Many people find this to be more convenient than email because they can read at their own pace-they can check as frequently as they like and there is no need to reply, yet they will always know what is going on in the writer's life. A blog is comparable to a newsletter, except it doesn't have to be printed over and over. The downside to blogging is that anything posted is accessible to anyone with internet access.

The more recent technology replacing email is networking technology found on sites such as MySpace and Facebook. Users can sign up to have their own personal pages on either one of these networks and then they can put up pictures, likes/dislikes, and any other kind of information about themselves. Each of these networks also offers ways to communicate with others in the network such as messaging, writing on users' profiles, and commenting on profiles. It is much more convenient to sign into your account and have everyone access it at once, with a picture of you provided, than to scan through your email contact list. Also, these networks allow people to put up pictures, and let others comment on the pictures, making it multifaceted in ways email is not. These networks offer more privacy than blogging and grow increasingly popular every day.


The Internet today offers more ways to communicate than it did when the movie You've Got Mail came out. While email is still widely used, I think it is obvious that its popularity and convenience are decreasing. I know many students who don't ever check their email because they tell everyone to communicate with them via Facebook or MySpace. However, email is still used to send messages and files within many workplaces. In fact, because of the privacy email offers, the workplace will probably be the main use for email for the foreseeable future.

Works Cited:

Peter, Ian. "The History of Email." 25 August 2006. 1 November 2006.

Back to top.