Digital Learning

Evolution of E-mail

Watch the first PowToon movie I created or read the transcript below.


E-mail, short for electronic mail, is fascinating. Ray Tomlinson was the creator of e-mail in 1971, creating a system for communication within an organization. However, it quickly grew to become a more complex system. By the year 2000, having an e-mail address was changing from a luxury item to a societal expectation according to Phrasee (2016). This began the era of spam email as people were creating their very own Yahoo! Mail, AOL, Hotmail, and Gmail accounts. By 2009, responsive emails were introduced and the first videos were embedded in emails. If you’re wondering, responsive email means the email format adapts to the device your reading the email on to make it easier to read. Responsive emails gained major momentum in 2011 allowing people to read their emails on almost any device available. In 2014, e-mails become interactive as CSS and HTML were integrated with e-mail. By 2015, CSS animation was in our emails gaining the attention of users.

Today, there are over 4.6 billion e-mail accounts in operation and 2.6 billion active email users. Meaning, there are many e-mail users with multiple email accounts. Email is the most important and the most used communication mode on the internet today (Phrasee, 2016). We don’t just have the ability to use CSS3 and HTML5 content, but we can integrate it within our emails to properly align text, images, and other elements. This integrated content combined with responsive email is incredibly important as 56% of email users prefer opening email on a mobile device (Email Monks). Marketers use this information to personalize e-mails and keep content engaging.

Why is it important for educators to understand the evolution of e-mail? E-mail falls under two categories of Ribble’s nine digital citizenship elements: Digital literacy and digital communication. E-mail is the primary form of digital communication. Our kids need to know how to properly send an e-mail, reply to an e-mail, and be able to identify spam in e-mails. The need for e-mail literacy is growing and will continue to grow.

Overall, developers of email are working to meet the demands of consumers especially by catering to decreasing attention spans. Attention spans on average have decreased to only 8 seconds and email is evolving to take less time for the consumer. Pre-header text, dynamic content, and image oriented e-mails make e-mails easier to read faster (Email Monks). Who knows what the future holds? Will there come a day when text is completely replaced with images?


Email Monks. (n.d.). Theory of email evolution. Retrieved from

Phrasee. (2016 March 10). A brief history of email: dedicated to Ray Tomlinson. Retrieved from

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