Webmail shows massive declines

According to a new study from comScore, the decline in web based e-mail (webmail) is only accelerating, and the trend isn't going to be reversed any time soon. comScore attributes the shift mainly to the growing use of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, where it tends to be more convenient to use built in e-mail software, as opposed to websites like Hotmail and Gmail.

According to the study, webmail usage declined by -34% for the 18-24 demographic, and by -31% for people between 12-17. The only group that saw much growth was the 45-54, where webmail growth saw a 15% increase, which shows a marked increase in luddism in that segment – or in all the other segments, depending on how you look at it.

Email clients existed long, long before the likes of Hotmail and others made it possible to access your mail account from any browser. This offered considerable advantages at the time, since it ensured that you were looking at exactly what was in your inbox at that moment, but many of those advantages have disappeared over the years. Since most smartphones are always connected to the network, email clients are just as effective as webmail was in the days of old, even if you're a long way from home. Still, what looks like progress to people who have grown up on Hotmail might seem like a regression through the eyes of more 'experienced' users.

All of this shouldn't be taken to mean that people are sending fewer e-mails – far from it. In fact, the study found that email is actually benefiting from the growth of mobile. Mobile email saw tremendous growth in the last year. What all of this does mean, however, is that the business models of businesses like Gmail and Hotmail are at stake.

Plenty of people are still using their services. The problem is that they aren't accessing them from the web, and they aren't seeing the ads that bring in the money. Having more users sending more email than ever before might sound like a good thing, but it actually becomes a liability for companies when those users rarely, if ever, log into their webmail client and see their ads. Maybe it's time for the return of ads in the text?

Image courtesy of comScore

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28 Comments

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Native apps have always been better than webmail clients. I'd even go as far to say native apps will always be better than web apps.

bjoswald said,
Give credit to Facebook and G+ for essentially killing e-mail.
I would say that that is only true when thinking about socialising with friends. In the business environment is still pretty strong.

bjoswald said,
Give credit to Facebook and G+ for essentially killing e-mail.

I'd say first instant messaging and later on SMS, WhatsApp, BlackBerry Messaging, iMessage etc. on mobile devices.

bjoswald said,
Give credit to Facebook and G+ for essentially killing e-mail.

Nothing got murdered. It's just the leisure side of my e-mail has experienced a lift-n-shift from the inbox to a public form like social sites. E-mail otherwise is a very required part of an online identity. If anything got murdered it's IM services.

I've never really used webmail extensively, always used e-mail client software on whatever device I have, whether that is PC/laptop/netbook or mobile.

texasghost said,
Hell...our company still uses Lotus Notes. Probably one of the oldest email clients in history.

I feel sorry for you. Lotus notes is torture, but a prime candidate to migrate to Google Apps / Office 365, so you should get your company to look into it.

UndergroundWire said,
Declined by -34% really. So two negatives make a positive.

Well, I didn't want to point it out, but now you've mentioned it, it simply doesn't add up.

It might also be because most web mails absolutely suck anymore being so overloaded with ads, flash and genuine other totally crap BS, no one wants to use them.

neufuse said,
psh why use mail when you have facebook! </s>

A lot of people prefer to keep FB as far as possible from them..... Yes myself included.

jafoman said,
My company is moving to Gmail for it's corporate email... Guess I'll be living in the browser and bucking the trend!

You can still use a mobile device or desktop client (eg: Microsoft Outlook) with Google Apps. If you want to stick with Outlook you can, it is not like Google would make companies push all of their staff onto webmail (and have to retrain everyone). The webmail is as fully featured as a desktop client though if you did want to use it at your own choice however.

I use Google Apps. I mainly manage my mail on my phone though. Im a reader of mail though rather than one that sends.

Work wise I send lots of email a day, thats Outlook/Exchange though, there's no way I would be able to send all that mail just using a phone.

jafoman said,
My company is moving to Gmail for it's corporate email... Guess I'll be living in the browser and bucking the trend!

I have google apps on my business domain and am using thunderbird + android gmail app. Never in browser.

Oh, yet another sound research by the mobile-devices-have-taken-over-the-world movement. I spend about 12 hours a day in front of a computer - a total of 3 of them. I check (web)mail at least 10 times per day. And, yes, I choose to forfeit the utter convenience of doing so on my mobile whilst having a PC/Mac in front of me (sarcasm). The allures of typing on an on-screen keyboard when I have a real one in front of me still evade me, but I guess if I read enough of these articles I'll have to convert, right?

reading, writing emails from my smartphone is via hotmail and gmail. not sure about the connection between mobile devices and decline of webmail. It still uses the same server....

DerAusgewanderte said,
reading, writing emails from my smartphone is via hotmail and gmail. not sure about the connection between mobile devices and decline of webmail. It still uses the same server....

Read it again. Webmail equals using the websites to access e-mail. They are saying that less people are using the websites possibly due to people using third-party client software on mobiles instead.

I always have "Webmail" opened when i'm at work, when i'm at home I use the client, and my mobile always has my mail delivered to it.

So I guess I fit into all 3 categories?

Raa said,
I always have "Webmail" opened when i'm at work, when i'm at home I use the client, and my mobile always has my mail delivered to it.

So I guess I fit into all 3 categories?


What three categories? In the article, they only talk about using webmail... or not using webmail.

I'd have to agree with you, If I'm not at my PC reading my mail which is not alot, it'll be with either my Tablet that is considerably mobile or my email. Ever since the Smart phones came into play I myself have experienced a sharp decline when checking my mail over a posted Computer. Reason being is I think we rely on push messages and instant notifications instead of waiting to find an appropirate time to check them and respond.

I enjoy this very much and I think Google has done a terrifice job of notifying me of incoming mail and having the option of replying back with the mobile app they developed.

I think I'd classify G-Mail as webmail. Sure, you can access it from iPods, iPhones, Android, and traditional e-mail clients, but at it's core it is still very much a web-based e-mail system, accessible via web-browser . The mobile devices just provide a convenient way to access the webmail, i.e. from the article, "...access your mail account from any browser."

The article is implying that mobile users tend to not use mobile browser to access the email... almost no-one goes to webmail site to log in to check email on a phone.

Instead, people use built in mail apps, which work more similarly to receiving a text message on your phone. There is no mobile browser opening and it just has a list under "inbox".

E.g. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-hsAD...0/Windows-Phone-7-email.png

This could be using gmail... but not using the gmail website.

If you visit gmail.com on your phone then login... this would still count as "webmail" in these statistics.

lt8480 said,

If you visit gmail.com on your phone then login... this would still count as "webmail" in these statistics.

In the end though, you are still using the same service. The article tries to imply that these services are being used less, but if anything, they are being used more than ever, just being accessed through a different means. 99% of the time, I access my Gmail and Live accounts through Thunderbird, or the email clients on my phone.

roadwarrior said,

In the end though, you are still using the same service. The article tries to imply that these services are being used less, but if anything, they are being used more than ever, just being accessed through a different means. 99% of the time, I access my Gmail and Live accounts through Thunderbird, or the email clients on my phone.

Read the last paragraph of the article: "Plenty of people are still using their services. The problem is that they aren't accessing them from the web, and they aren't seeing the ads that bring in the money. Having more users sending more email than ever before might sound like a good thing, but it actually becomes a liability for companies when those users rarely, if ever, log into their webmail client and see their ads."