According to the Evening Standard, those ‘at the frontiers of technology’ reckon emails are dying out. On closer inspection of the article it appears the aforementioned gurus prove to be none other than PR men for Facebook and Twitter. No vested interest there then. Especially as their thesis is that all organisations will eventually adopt their own Twitter and Facebook platforms for carrying out their internal communications. Now no-one doubts the immense power of these online phenomena. However the clue is in the name they are given – social media. That’s what there are there for – social ends not business ones. The idea that a major corporation would trust its most protected secrets to the hands of a third party is of course bunkum. Who knows who may one day own all the information related to Facebook and Twitter. As Aleks Krotoski pointed out in her excellent BBC2 series, The Virtual Revolution, when in pre-war Holland a census noted everyone’s religious persuasion, no-one guessed that the ultimate owners of the information would be the Nazis. For those of us who still like the odd conversation to be private, or who simply want to share a file or two with a specific recipient the email still seems to hold all the aces.
We must all beware of the way these goliaths of the internet age big themselves up, because ultimately there is danger in any organisation becoming too powerful. Competition is stifled and the playing field becomes uneven. We must not so readily believe their own publicity. And we must always remember that what sprang up so quickly can just as easily disappear. Remember Friends Reunited and Bebo? Already there is a vague feeling that Facebook is less cool than it was now that everyone’s parents are on it too. Who wants to attend a disco where Dad’s dancing?
Talking of po-faced monoliths bigging themselves up, I took my daughter’s 18month old ipod back to the new Covent Garden Apple store before Christmas. It was all rather like visiting the Wizard of Oz, and naturally I couldn’t see one of the oh-so-busy ipad carrying gurus immediately, I had to book an appointment for the next day at something they modestly call the Genius desk. When I presented the ipod I was told that the battery had expired and that a replacement would be £60 odd. £60 for a new battery in a product less than 2 years old? Now that’s what I call genius.