You've got mail: 60 billion a day by 2006

As if the strain that spam and email alerts are putting on in-boxes weren't enough already, expect even more in the coming years as the overall number of email messages doubles from 31 billion a day now to 60 billion a day by 2006, market researcher IDC predicts.

          As if the strain that spam and email alerts are putting on in-boxes weren't enough already, expect even more in the coming years as the overall number of email messages doubles from 31 billion a day now to 60 billion a day by 2006, market researcher IDC predicts.

          It will not surprise the average email user that the increase will not be messages from friends and loved ones. Of the 31 billion email messages that move across the internet and private networks daily now, about two-thirds are person-to-person communications and the rest is made up of spam, notifications and alerts for information such as stock prices and sports scores. By 2006, a little over half of the 60 billion messages sent daily will be person-to-person, says Mark Levitt, vice president of IDC's collaborative computing program.

          To ensure email remains a valuable business tool, email software vendors and users will have to find ways to quickly access the most important and timely email messages, says Levitt, who co-wrote a recently published IDC study on email usage with Robert Mahowald, research manager in IDC's collaborative computing programme.

          As a result of the email onslaught, users will demand message filtering technology, IDC concludes in the report titled Worldwide E-mail Usage Forecast, 2002-2006: Know What's Coming Your Way. The report examines how email has been and will be used for business and personal purposes. It looks at email usage in North America and worldwide markets, including breakdowns of users by type, primary access methods and sent emails by purpose and type.

          The study aims to help develop an understanding of how email will evolve in light of other newer communication tools, such as instant messaging, Levitt says. It examines what type of communication is appropriate in a particular situation, and it takes into account that there's often a human factor when new technologies encroach on old ones, Levitt says.

          The research also indicates that web browsers will remain the primary access method for all email worldwide through 2006. This is significant, Levitt says, because employees who use an email client such as Microsoft's Outlook for business email may be using a web browser to access their private email. As their comfort and familiarity with browser-based email access grows, it could result in demands that their employers switch to that method, Levitt says.

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