Mark Zuckerberg said in 2010 “High School kids don’t use email”.

Last year ComScore reported a 59% decline in the use of email services such as Gmail and Hotmail by 12-17 year olds, an 18% decrease in 25-35 year olds and an 8% decrease in 35-44 year olds.

Atos Origin – Europe’s largest IT Company – will be scrapping internal email by 2013. They employ over 49,000 people! They are planning to use modern instant messaging services and old fashioned face to face dialogue.

Why is all of this happening?

In short – email is not efficient and is a huge distraction. We track all employees time in 20 minute increments and have witnessed emails destructive power on output. Research has shown that it takes an average of 20 minutes to get back to a task once you have been interrupted by email. Team members who get around 200 emails a day spend anywhere between four and twenty hours a week clearing their inboxes. The sheer volume of email we all receive is now unsustainable.

Over 107 trillion emails are estimated to be sent each year. Half of these are said to be spam! We all know the vast majority of other messages are from friends, reply to all’s, and dull time wasting memos that have little relevance to your workflow.

Email has been with us for 40 years and its time we found a more secure, private and productive path.

So what is that path?

Instant messaging is the obvious choice. Created in the 1990’s for the gaming industry – it allows users to see when other colleagues or specified contacts are online. You can then talk to them via bite size messages that display on your screen. These messages are more efficient and deleted as you go so avoid the clutter of email. Today these are most common as part of social networks such as Facebook.

As well as instant messaging social networks allow us to tell people of our location, status, schedule, and activities without emailing. It’s easy to see why companies are considering using tools with these qualities to increase the efficiency of communication.

So is email dead?

Not quite. There are around 3bn accounts worldwide. Email also has the benefit of being compatible with all other email systems (something IM services lack). There is however a movement towards more efficient electronic communication that is gaining momentum.

Email is not finished but it now has some credible rivals that I would encourage all companies to consider.