Lenta.ru: First of all, I would like to talk to you about the future of web services. About what role they will play in 2015. Let’s start with email. What threats do email face now? Do you fear for the future of this technology in 5 years?
Walter Harp: Email has been around for more than a decade. And in fact, during this time she has changed little. Email is still concentrated around the inbox. This will inevitably change under the pressure of various circumstances. In particular, right now users via e-mail exchange instant messages in chat windows. Although, of course, a large proportion of this communication went to social networks.
We conducted a study of the email audience and found out that at the moment it is the users who prefer it when choosing between instant messengers, social networks, mail, and SMS. For these people, mailboxes play a very important role. Moreover, it is mail that largely determines their behavior on the Web.
Tell us about the evolution of your inbox for the last five years? How do you think it will change in the future?
First of all, I note the following trend, for which we were not ready. It’s about Facebook and the gigantic growth in the popularity of this social network. Currently, Facebook emails account for a quarter of all Microsoft email messages. But it was opened to all users only in 2007 – before that, Facebook was a social network exclusively for students.
On the other hand, over the past five years, the number of letters received by users has grown significantly. At the same time, as many users note, there are often too many letters. And here the spam factor plays an important role, which in 2006 amounted to about half of the total number of letters. Now its share has grown to 90 percent.
If we talk about the volume of the inbox for incoming messages, then remember: when Google mail appeared in 2004, its users received a gigabyte for storing letters. And then it was perceived as a gigantic volume. And compare this with today’s significantly increased mailbox requirements. For example, now leading services, including Hotmail.com, do not have any restrictions on the volume of the mailbox at all – it just constantly grows to depend on the needs of the consumer.
Also, Microsoft email statistics show that on average, users send each other one and a half billion photos a month. So for now, this service is still popular. However, over the past few years, the number of photos submitted by users has increased. The reason for this was the ubiquity of digital cameras and mobile phones with cameras.
It should be noted and an increase in the number of phishing and other malicious attacks. In one 2007, more such actions were recorded on the Web than in the previous 20 years. And since then the number of these threats has been constantly growing.
What will happen to spam and similar spam in the future? Do you predict a decrease in its growth dynamics?
The topic of spam can be equated to the theme of war. And with the same success, one may ask: “Will there ever be an end to wars around the world?” Unfortunately, professionals work in the spam industry. And this industry is extremely profitable.
Spammers and hackers respond very quickly to the slightest change in how email works. As soon as we introduce a new defense mechanism, they almost instantly change the mechanism of their attacks. So it doesn’t seem to me that one day, the email will suddenly completely get rid of such threats.
There is a tendency when online email vendors, in addition to actually sending messages, offer other services to users. Is this a way to develop an email? Is a Gmail or Hotmail user required to have access to video calls, chat, and IP telephony?
Let me give you an example from poker. In this game, all participants make mandatory bets before the cards are dealt. Email also has minimum bids, which increase substantially over time. So, now all services should provide users with a large mailbox, while a few years ago this volume was much smaller. The integration of additional functionality is also becoming a mandatory bet. However, it is important to ask a question: are these services really necessary for users, or are innovations implemented for the sake of innovation?
Users actively send instant messages from email. Also, as we noted, sending SMS from instant messengers is very popular. If we talk about the ability to make calls from an open e-mail window – personally I have such technology so far in doubt. It seems to me that the user does not need to open an email page for this purpose. This complicates the task because you probably have a mobile phone at hand. With the same success, you can run Skype.
An email is primarily a work tool. And people with her help send documents to each other, get bills and bank statements. Using mail, people look for work or make an appointment. And at the moment, it seems to us that e-mail will remain such a universal tool for a long time. This can change only when some fundamentally new solution appears on the market. For example, Google Wave could become such a solution – however, this service did not succeed, because for now, users still want something simpler and reminiscent of email.
What future awaits instant messengers? Are social networks and microblogging services a threat to ICQ, AIM and the like?
Social networks and microblogging services can really win over a certain proportion of users of instant messengers. However, it is important to pay attention to why people use instant messengers. It seems to me that often users are surrounded by too much information. First of all, this applies to those who use several services simultaneously, for example, Facebook, Yelp, MySpace. And for these people, sometimes it’s important to disconnect from the surrounding noise and communicate with those who are really close to them.
After all, in the contact list in instant messengers do not add all who hit it. For example, former classmates, classmates, and work colleagues. Instant messengers are a much more personal tool. For example, on Facebook, a user can have 500 friends, while in a messenger – only 20, but these are 20 that he really wants to communicate with.
What do you think about the confrontation between cloud technologies and web applications and conventional computer programs? Will we really move to the “cloud” or is its importance exaggerated?
First of all, all the current successes of cloud computing became possible due to the development of web standards, in particular, HTML5. Recently, the throughput of Internet channels of users has significantly increased and the delay in the transmission of packets has decreased. Also, an important factor was the increase in computer performance.
From my point of view, cloud technologies have already firmly entered our lives. I will show you this with the example of Excel. Microsoft has an Excel web application in Office Web Apps. But the engine, which is actually responsible for the calculations in this program, is not posted on the Web. It is simply too complex and resource-intensive for this. Yes, it is possible, in the future, as Internet capabilities continue to grow, all the computing capabilities of the program will become available to users of the cloud client. However, this is not yet available. From the same point of view, you can consider applications for the iPhone. On the one hand, these are web applications, and on the other, computer program clients.