I really liked this article about email. Jon Udell asks what would happen if all email crashed- what would we use to replace it?
By asking these questions, he helps to define the best uses of email. By looking at a world without email, we begin to see how other technologies like RSS, Weblogs, Instant Messaging etc. can fill in the gaps. But, most importantly, it shows what gaps cannot be filled. The result is what email is best at doing- its special power...
Jon on email's ability to form and dissolve ad hoc groups:
Every interpersonal e-mail message creates, or sustains, or alters the membership of a group. It happens so naturally that we don't even think about it. When you're writing a message to Sally, you cc: Joe and Beth. Joe adds Mark to the cc: list on his reply. You and Sally work for one department of your company, Joe for another, Beth is a customer, and Mark is an outside contractor. These subtle and spontaneous acts of group formation and adjustments of group membership are the source of e-mail's special power. Without any help from an administrator, we transcend the boundaries not only of time and space but also of organizational trust.
Via: Ross Mayfield