ENVISIONING The future of email protocol



Group project with Idil Tunga, James McIntyre, Jiaojiao Xu and Júlia Nacsa.

24 hours

On our submission to 2013's OzCHI Design Challenge we envision email technology, which currently overloads users, to evolve into a system of single user identity protocol that offers convergent, multi-sensory and location-based messaging.

Users’ emails are addressed and filtered according to their different locations during their life. Users receive emails with relevant information at the right place and time.


Their digital identity, including their email account, is not scattered, and it dynamically changes along with their life situations.

 Within this 24-hour design challenge our process focused on the service design dimension of rethinking the future of email. As a continuation of this project, the interaction dimension can be elaborated on, such as devices, interaction modalities and detailed user scenarios.


Design for the future email ecosystem



One of the major differences introduced in our system, was a protocol change such that the system provides users a single identity, helping them to avoid errors such as forgetting important messages or lack of context in the received information. In this system the user can keep his part of the virtual address: a unique name that will be used as his ID during his life for multiple purposes, such as exchange of personal memories, education and work related communication. The goal of the unified ID is also to support the younger users, a tendency that should grow in our scenario where the first interaction with the digital world would happen at the infancy.

Location-based filtering


To avoid information overload an automated filter using the location-based paradigm, adding context to the received messages.  As an illustration within our concept, the same person could be contacted in different context, such as work, by just adding "@work" to his personal address or being notified of important tasks at different places, as supermarkets by adding "@supermarket".

Free information about public places as theatres or museums would be available to be collected, shared or even added by the user. As an example, you could plant information on public places using “anyone@museum”, to share relevant content with everyone who passes through this place.

Multi-sensory messages


We also believe that the characteristics of the future messages will add stimulation of other senses: tactile messages will be combined with sound, smell and images, driven by the evolution of the nanotechnology in the molecular manufacturing resources. To avoid the information overload triggered by these new ways of communicating, the sensorial messages should be restricted to a reserved place chosen by the users, such as their homes.


Challenges and Feedback


The proposed system concept may face 3 challenges, namely, interaction with messaging devices, user privacy and emergency situations.  Regarding the first, since our main concern of the proposed idea was to evolve and perfect the email protocol, we understood that the amount and modality of sensorial information can be chosen depending on the messaging device, or the user context. Concerning privacy, even when received in public places, messages should be kept private. We considered privacy protection as dependent on the interaction with messaging channels. And addressing the last, with several other technologies offering instant messaging, the email protocol continues to be valued as an asynchronous way of communicating, therefore not recommended for emergencies, such an important message from home to be delivered at work. Our project blog is still live at jjjim.tumblr.com and our paper submission can be accessed here.