With over 3.9 billion active users and over 5.6 billion email accounts, email is the undefeated champion of internet communication till date.
Thanks to its wider reach and effectiveness, email has become an integral part of life today. From personal interactions to commercial communications, everything is done via emails, even in the age of social media. Especially for businesses, email has become an integral part of their brand promotions, customer engagement, and marketing activities. Moreover, today’s emails are mobile optimized which makes it even more consumable for the audience. That is why 73% of millennial also prefer receiving any business communication via emails. These facts are interesting as they show that emails have come a long way.
Although we all use emails on a daily basis, however, many of us have little to no knowledge of when did email start and how it evolved over the years, becoming the most preferred and effective marketing channel that both B2B and B2C marketers rely on.
Here are we are going to talk about the inception and the history of email whose presence can be traced back to the origin of the internet and even beyond.
The very first email system was found at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1965. The system was called MAILBOX that was used to send messages. MIT users would leave a message on a computer with this program installed for the other user of the same machine. It was more like leaving a message in another user file directory in a location within the computer where they would be able to see when logged in. This exchange medium was effective for people who wanted to communicate as they could send messages via the computer.
However, at that time, mainframe computers would have one hundred users, and hence a message left for a particular person would be accessible to all using the same mainframe. Moreover, terminals connected to the mainframe didn’t have enough storage, so most of the work had to be done remotely. Then in 1969 came the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) which was implemented by the US Department of Defense. ARPANET was a network that connected several computers across various departments within the organization and allowed seamless communication. Using the ARPANET, the first message was sent on 29th October 1969.
Though sending email messages were attempted throughout the 1960s, email became popular in 1970s when the concept of communication between computers started to gain momentum and proven to be beneficial. It was in the year 1971 when Ray Tomlinson made a successful attempt on improvising on scattered efforts and created ARPANET’s networked email system and invented electronic mail as we all know it today.
However, with the advancements and evolution of computers, email system became complex. The concept of exchanging messages between computers was clear, but the thing that kept everyone worried was that how to indicate to whom the message was intended while sending the message within the network from one computer to another. While everyone panicked, it was Ray Tomlinson who had the solution. He invented @ symbol to be used to indicate a destination where the message would be sent and ever since email addresses have been like this: username@name of the computer.
Then came the need to develop software for storing organization emails, and this led to the creation of modern email inbox that we all use today. On the other hand, by 1980s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) started connecting people globally, and even various email hosting sites began to emerge. Later in 1993, ‘electronic mail’ was renamed as ‘email’ and in the next few years internet portals like Yahoo, Hotmail, Echomail, etc., started to transform the email landscape with the aim to make the benefits of World Wide Web (WWW) available to a wider audience.
By late1990’s, email’s popularity multiplied, and its users increased from 55 million to 400 million within a short span. This brief account of when was email invented, and the evolution journey ahead is commendable.