resilience by Asa Aarons Smith
Email attachments are far too ingrained in business culture to be at death's door. PHOTO: Asa Aarons Smith

For such a technologically advanced society, the way we share files is fairly primitive.

Whether it’s an enterprise-scale deal negotiation or a casual message to a friend, here’s how a file is most commonly shared:

I attach my file to an email and send it to you. Once you receive my file, you have total access to it — and there’s nothing I can do about it. That’s it.

As it stands, no major email client natively supports the option to monitor or revoke usage of sent files. 

Not only does this pose a security threat, it’s also a little unnerving when it comes to sensitive information.

Those same email clients are also failing to adapt to ever-growing file sizes. 

For example, even with the help of Google Drive, Gmail only allows for attachments under 10GB in size — which means sending short 4K movies is out of the question.

Something’s Got to Give

Despite the undeveloped nature of the modest email attachment, I don’t believe that its death is near — although that notion does exist.

Email attachments are far too ingrained in business culture and far too efficient as a means for small-to-medium sized file sharing to be at death’s door.

Furthermore, most businesses use their chosen email client as a half-baked document management system for the untold number of attachments they send and receive. This alone tells us that email attachments themselves have life in them yet.

However, I do think that something has to give.

After all, the average office worker receives 121 emails per day, and in a world so fraught with hacking, cyber-espionage and bigger file sizes — it’s fair to say that email attachments as we know them aren’t ready for the future.

The Future of File Sharing

As the digital world continues to evolve, the way we want to share information is changing. Enterprises are demanding security, control, flexibility and safety nets for when mistakes occur — and they’re haphazardly supplementing their email clients with apps in bulk to make it all happen.

This trend is perhaps best explained by solutions like sndrBlock, a Kickstarter project that gives businesses the ability to share 5TB files, set self-destruction rules, configure permissions for individuals and remotely delete emails.

When you also consider other popular solutions like Bidsketch and ContactMonkey — two solutions that empower users to monitor their sent emails — the future of email is clear to see.

What we’re seeing is a slow but steady shift towards Snapchat-esque email, where messages and attachments are ephemeral, trackable and cloud-friendly enough to support truly massive file sharing.

But I don’t expect this shift to go under the radar of Apple, Google and Microsoft — three of the world’s largest email client vendors.

Think about it: a scenario that involves Microsoft buying and amalgamating such softwares into Outlook is far more realistic than the thought of them waiting for those same softwares to innovate Outlook into an early grave.

So, instead of dying, I sense we’re about to see email attachments evolve.

Change is Coming

Thank to real-time collaboration tools, intranets, the business cloud and now artificial intelligence, there’s no doubting that email attachments are now poorly aligned with the current needs of the enterprise market. In fact, even the common consumer is starting to sense the stagnation.

But I don’t see this as a death sentence for the humble email attachment. There is still time for major email client vendors to react, and I’m eager to see how they execute their next move.