Tuesday, September 05, 2006

[AoyW] Why Email Persists: It's P2P

"Anne 2.0" writes that email persists despite numerous attepts to replace it over many years because it is "good enough". Benefits she points to are: 1) Interoperability 2) Personalized Organization 3) Easy access control 4) Single point of information access. All good points, as are those that she enumerates where email fails.

However, there is a fundamental difference between email and all the mechanisms that have been proposed to obsolete it: Email is peer-to-peer. Everything else is server-centered. Email uses servers, true, but they merely provide relay service or secondary storage. The email application sees a field of peers, identified by unique addresses, and reachable via the nearest SMTP service.

What hasn't been tried is applying the user-centric P2P approach of email to writing and content-creation apps, which are the fundamental tools of the knowledge worker. Isn't P2P messaging really a feature of these apps, rather than a disconnected app itself?

Were a P2P wiki framework to emerge, enabling private wikis distributed among teams of collaborators, with commentary or chat embedded on any page, would the email client still persist as the primary—and frustrating—tool that it is today?