More Mailboxes on the Way

The number of worldwide email mailboxes is expected to increase from 505 million in 2000 to 1.2 billion in 2005, according to International Data Corp. (IDC).

IDC holds three factors responsible for the projected email boom: Web services, wireless access and workers without email. And despite a shakeout among free Web email providers, IDC believes the remaining providers will see significant growth in mailboxes tied to Web sites.

“Wireless access through email devices and network services will offer new ways for email users to remain connected longer while on the move,” said Mark Levitt, research director for IDC’s Collaborative Computing program. “Workers such as deskless and mobile workers whose access to email has not come easy will benefit from customized email software, devices and hosted services.”

Along with the growth in the number of email mailboxes comes staggering numbers in terms of email usage. According to IDC, the number of person-to-person emails sent on an average day is expected to exceed 36 billion worldwide in 2005. The growing effect email has on the Web is evident in widening usage of Web browsers as the primary method for accessing email. IDC expects use of the Web for email to surpass 50 percent for all email mailboxes worldwide in 2003.

“E-mail usage is growing despite challenges from market substitutes like instant messaging and virtual workspaces that require a change in the way people work and often fall short of matching email’s ease of use and global reach,” said Robert Mahowald, senior analyst for IDC’s Collaborative Computing program. “In addition to the three Ws, email usage will be driven by better integration between email and other business applications and processes that will make email more accessible and therefore more valuable to a broader audience.”

A survey of Internet users by The Gallup Organization found that email remains the No. 1 activity for people online, with more than half saying saying it is their most common online activity.

The typical email user is on the Internet seven to eight hours each week, the poll found, and 37 percent of the respondents indicate they go online more than 10 hours per week. Sending and reading email is the most common activity for people when online, much more common than searching for information, paying bills or using instant messages. Nine in 10 email users said they use email at home, and more than 80 percent use it at work. And while a majority of email users said they use the telephone and U.S. mail less often because of email, most are not willing to sacrifice those methods of communication just yet.

As might be expected, email use differs between home and work. Those who use it at work check it much more often, and send and receive many more emails. A majority, 51 percent, of those who use email at work check it at least once an hour, including 32 percent who said they check it “continuously.” An additional 33 percent said they check email at work a couple times a day, and 11 percent check it about once a day. Only 5 percent check it less than once a day. At home, only 6 percent said they check email at least once an hour, including 3 percent who check it continuously. Most people check their email at home either a couple times a day (30 percent) or about once a day (41 percent). But 22 percent check it less often than that.

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