E-Mail Continues to Take Over the World

The number of worldwide electronic mailboxes soared an amazing 83 percent in 1999, topping 569 million by year’s end, according to a study by Messaging Online.

The 1999 Mailbox Study found that at the present growth rate, within the next two to three years, there may be more email accounts in use than either telephone lines or televisions, capping off a decade of growth that has seen electronic messaging take its place as the “killer app” of computer networks.

According to the study, there were 333 million electronic mailboxes within the US and 236 million elsewhere in the world. In the US, roughly two-thirds of the workforce now uses email, and one-in-four households has at least one mailbox. The survey also shows which families that use email at home now average four mailboxes per household.

“Even after accounting for a small margin of people with multiple mailboxes, the survey clearly indicates that at least 40 percent of Americans use email,” said Eric Arnum, editor of Messaging Online. “It is apparent that email is a new mass communications channel, which has prompted us to revise that old saying, ‘the medium is the message,’ to now read ‘the message is the medium.'”

Outside of the US, the study showed that email is still in an early adopter phase, despite growth that last year exceeded 100 percent. The number of mailboxes in the rest of the world more than doubled from 117 million at the end of 1998, as email technology continues to spread into both the corporate market and into households across Europe, Australia, and lately also into Latin America. At the beginning of the 1990s, there were only 15 million mailboxes in the entire world, Arnum said.

According to the study, the largest category of email is Webmail, with nearly 170 million mailboxes in use by the end of 199 on systems such as Hotmail and Yahoo Mail. The second largest is the ISP/online category, with just over 149 million mailboxes worldwide on networks such as America Online, T-Online, and EarthLink. Both categories have more than doubled in size since the end of 1998, reflecting unprecedented growth among consumers and teleworkers. Software.com supplied more than 50 million of these mailboxes to service providers, making it the world’s leading provider of messaging platforms to service providers.

Within corporations, which still prefer to operate their own messaging systems, Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange continue to lead the market. At the end of 1999, Notes/Domino had roughly 55.3 million “seats” while Exchange was close behind in second place with 44.2 million “seats.” Lotus saw its Notes installed base expand 65 percent in 1999 while Microsoft saw its Exchange base soar by 82 percent last year. Exchange outsold Notes during the early part of the year, but Notes scored some big numbers late in the year, adding 8.5 million “seats” to its stable in the fourth quarter alone.

However, corporations and service providers continue to show a growing preference for messaging outsourcers, which more than tripled their customer base in 1999. The five top messaging outsourcers, USA.net, Critical Path, Mail.com, Commtouch Software, and United Messaging — went from just under 14 million mailboxes under management at the end of 1998 to more than 45 million at the end of 1999, proving that corporations and service providers are getting the message that renting may be more cost-effective than building or buying messaging system.

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