Since I signed up for Facebook and MySpace and worked on becoming a regular user of both I've come to the conclusion that email innovation stalled, it stalled a long time ago.
Reading Saul Hansell's blog post on "Inbox 2.0" just further confirms a growing feeling in my gut. Email evolution stalled and others filled the gap created.
I liken email to the telephone, except it never really evolved or kept up with the evolution of the Internet.
Did it ever really embrace Web 1.0? Maybe recently with instant messaging being incorporated into the email services.
As Saul points out there hasn't been innovation on helping make the inbox more useful, helping you prioritize, etc.
The telephone has caller id, call waiting, voice mail, call forwarding, universal phone numbers, etc.
I know when I log into Facebook I will only see communications from my friends. There are no pharma spam ads, just the chatter of friends and old acquaintances.
Saul makes a great point that people might not have great expectations with email, but it's a universal communication tool that is not "owned" by a single company. I can join Gmail and email someone on Yahoo. Today that doesn't work between Facebook and MySpace for example.
If the majors want to capture email share they need to evolve the inbox and make it useful again. Most of them have all of the functionality that Facebook or MySpace has but it's spread out among various products. There is minimal integration.
What would happen if all of the functionality was added in and the velvet rope was setup?
Email is a universal communication tool, that needs to evolve. We need an arms race in the inbox to improve the functionality and relevance.
Business still runs on email, most companies have their own email server. I find it hard to imagine that every company would switch to Facebook for communication. Imagine new email tools that weave in social functionality, it's happening with xobni.com top of mind with me.