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(2011-01-18 23:37:39)












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热度15票 共0条评论】【我要评论 时间:2011年1月14日 16:21

SAN FRANCISCO — Signs you’re an old fogey: You still watch movies on a VCR, listen to vinyl records and shoot photos on film.

And you enjoy using e-mail.
Young people, of course, much prefer online chats and text messages. These have been on the rise for years but are now threatening to eclipse e-mail, much as they have already superseded phone calls.

Major Internet companies like Facebook are responding with message services that are focused on immediate gratification.

The problem with e-mail, young people say, is that it involves a boringly long process of signing into an account, typing out a subject line and then sending a message that might not be received or answered for hours. And sign-offs like “sincerely” — seriously?

Lena Jenny, 17, a high school senior in Cupertino, Calif., said texting was so quick that “I sometimes have an answer before I even shut my phone.” E-mail, she added, is “so lame.”

Facebook is trying to appeal to the Lenas of the world. It is rolling out a revamped messaging service that is intended to feel less like e-mail and more like texting.

The company decided to eliminate the subject line on messages after its research showed that it was most commonly left blank or used for an uninformative “hi” or “yo.”

Facebook also killed the “cc” and “bcc” lines. And hitting the enter key can immediately fire off the message, à la instant messaging, instead of creating a new paragraph. The changes, company executives say, leave behind time-consuming formalities that separate users from what they crave: instant conversation.

“The future of messaging is more real time, more conversational and more casual,” said Andrew Bosworth, director of engineering at Facebook, where he oversees communications tools. “The medium isn’t the message. The message is the message.”

The numbers testify to the trend. The number of total unique visitors in the United States to major e-mail sites like Yahoo and Hotmail is now in steady decline, according to the research company comScore. Such visits peaked in November 2009 and have since slid 6 percent; visits among 12- to 17-year-olds fell around 18 percent. (The only big gainer in the category has been Gmail, up 10 percent from a year ago.)

The slide in e-mail does not reflect a drop in digital communication; people have just gravitated to instant messaging, texting and Facebook (four billion messages daily).

James E. Katz, the director for the Center for Mobile Communications Studies at Rutgers University, said this was not the death of e-mail but more of a downgrade, thanks to greater choice and nuance among communications tools.

“It’s painful for them,” he said of the younger generation and e-mail. “It doesn’t suit their social intensity.”

Some, predictably, turn up their noses at the informality and the abbreviated spellings that are rampant in bite-size, phone-based transmissions. Judith Kallos, who writes a blog and books about e-mail etiquette, complains that the looser, briefer and less grammatical the writing, the less deep the thoughts and emotions behind it.

“We’re going down a road where we’re losing our skills to communicate with the written word,” Ms. Kallos said.

Mary Bird, 65, of San Leandro, Calif., is another traditionalist, if a reluctant one. “I don’t want to be one of those elders who castigate young peoples’ form of communication,” she said. “But the art of language, the beauty of language, is being lost.”

Ms. Bird’s daughter, Katie Bird Hunter, 26, is on the other side of the digital communications divide and finds her parents to be out of touch.

“They still use AOL,” she says, implying with her tone that she finds this totally gross.

Ms. Hunter says she seeks to reach friends first by text, then by instant message, then with a phone call, and then by e-mail. “And then, while I’d probably never do this last one, showing up at their house.”

Like a lot of younger people, Ms. Hunter, who works in construction management in San Francisco, says e-mail has its place — namely work and other serious business, like online shopping. She and others say they still regularly check e-mail, in part because parents, teachers and bosses use it.

David McDowell, senior director of product management for Yahoo Mail, conceded that the company was seeing a shift to other tools, but said this was less a generational phenomenon than a situational one. Fifteen-year-olds, for example, have little reason to send private attachments to a boss or financial institution.

Yahoo has added features like chat and text messaging to its e-mail service to reflect changing habits, as has Gmail, which also offers phone calls.

“Mail is now only a part of Gmail,” said Mike Nelson, a Google spokesman. “It’s video conferencing, texting, it’s I.M., it’s phone calling.”

Mr. Katz, the Rutgers professor, said texting and social networks better approximated how people communicated in person — in short snippets where niceties did not matter. Over time, he said, e-mail will continue to give way to faster-twitch formats, even among older people.

The changing trends have even some people in their 20s feeling old and slightly out of touch, or at least caught in the middle.

Adam Horowitz, 23, who works as a technology consultant for a major accounting firm in New York, spends all day on e-mail at his office. When he leaves it behind, he picks up his phone and communicates with friends almost entirely via texts.

Yet he sometimes feels caught between the two, as when he texts with his younger brothers, ages 12 and 19, who tend to send even shorter, faster messages.

“When they text me, it comes across in broken English. I have no idea what they’re saying,” said Mr. Horowitz. “I may not text in full sentences, but at least there’s punctuation to get my point across.”

“I guess I’m old school.”





年轻人说,电邮的问题是过程太冗长无趣:你得先登入账号,想好一个主题,而且发出的邮件对方可能好几个钟头都收不到,或是不回复。此外邮件结尾的客套用词,譬如“真诚的”- 你开玩笑吧?

加州库珀提诺的17岁高三学生Lena Jenny说,短信的速度快到“有时我手机还没收起来就接到回复了。”她还说,电子邮件“逊毙了!”

Facebook正在试着回应全世界每个Lena Jenny的需求。它即将推出一个变身的信息服务,感觉比较不像写电邮,而更像发短信。



“未来的信息服务是更即时,更像交谈,而且更随意的,”监管Facebook通讯工具的工程总监Andrew Bosworth说。“媒介不是信息。信息本身才是信息。”



罗格斯大学移动通讯研究中心总监James E. Katz说,“电邮并不是被判死刑,只是被降级了,因为通讯工具的选择性很多,而且各有特色。”


可以想见的,另外也有一些人鄙视这种利用手机发送简短信息,所滋生出来的不正式和拼写的简略。Judith Kallos经营着一个关于邮件礼节的博客,也出版了一些相关主题的书。她抱怨说,文字越松散、越简短和越不合文法,它背后的思想和感情也就越少。


住在加州圣莱安德罗,65岁的Mary Bird是另一个传统派,虽然她不愿意。“我不想变成那种批评年轻人沟通方式的老人,”她说。“但是语言的艺术和语言的美,正在流失。”

Bird女士的女儿,26岁的Katie Bird Hunter,站在这个数字通信落差的另一边。她觉得她的父母太落伍了。




雅虎邮箱的资深产品管理总监David McDowell坦言他们看到用户正在转移到其它通讯工具,但他说这比较是因为不同的个人情况,而不是因为不同年龄世代。譬如说,15岁的小孩就没有什么理由要发送私人的附件给老板或金融机构。


“现在电子邮件仅是Gmail的一部分,”谷歌的发言人Mike Nelson说。“它也是视频会议、短信,它还是即时通讯,它甚至是电话。”



今年23岁,在纽约一家主要会计公司做技术顾问的Adam Horowitz,整天在他的办公室里处理邮件。下了班之后,他透过手机跟朋友联系,几乎全是使用短信。







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