May 2024 - Future of Email | Email | Artificial Intelligence

The Future of Email in the Age of AI

Marking the 40th anniversary of email in Germany, Alex Charles from GMX and WEB.DE explores its evolving role in our digital lives, emphasizing the crucial need for trust by improving communication, powering identity, and enabling personal AI.

Trust Fuels the Future of Email as we enter the Age of AI and Assistants-web

©Marut Khobtakhob |

Email celebrates the 40th anniversary in Germany this year, and it is helpful to reflect on how it has developed from a simple communication tool to a pivotal element of our digital lives. Email has consistently adapted to technological advancements and changing user needs, maintaining its relevance in an ever-evolving digital ecosystem. Today, as we stand at the cusp of a new era that will be defined by artificial intelligence (AI) and digital assistants, the role of email is set to transform once again. This transformation will be grounded in trust, which is crucial for ensuring that email continues to be a foundation of digital communication.

The current state of email

Email is a central part of our digital lives, used for signing up or logging into various online services. Despite the rise of other communication platforms, email has retained its significance due to its open format and flexibility. However, its role has shifted from person-to-person communication to a medium predominantly used to connect businesses with consumers. Our data shows that today, less than 10 percent of emails are personal or social updates. All other emails fall into two categories: transactional emails and marketing emails. Transactional emails, such as e-commerce order updates, notifications, and service confirmations, make up a significant portion of our digital interactions, while newsletters constitute about as much as 60 percent of all emails in an average inbox.

The revolution of email is already underway, even though it is happening quietly. There are three key areas where email must now seize the opportunity to evolve: improving communication, powering identity, and enabling personal AI.

1. Improving communication

Trust and security

The Internet has reached a tipping point when it comes to trust. For email to remain an essential part of our online interactions, we must address two critical issues. First, consumers need to trust that emails come from the claimed senders. Senders, on the other hand, need to trust there is a human at the other end of the interaction. Second, the email channel must be secure enough for people to feel comfortable sharing information without resorting to other supposedly more secure platforms.

Right information, right time, right context

Our lives are busier than ever, and managing an overflowing inbox can be overwhelming. Many users resort to deleting emails en masse, which is not an efficient way to handle communication. Instead, we should focus on organizing emails contextually. By separating urgent information from less critical content, we help users prioritize their attention and time more effectively.

This contextual approach also allows for a more engaging experience with promotional content. Instead of deleting newsletters and marketing emails, users can interact with them at a time that suits them. There is also no reason why email newsletters should not be presented in similarly engaging product stories that users interact with on social media today. This opens new opportunities for embedding richer content such as video in email newsletters.

Enhancing conversations

As email has increasingly shifted towards business-to-consumer communication, the conversational aspect has diminished. Emails sent from “no-reply” addresses actively discourage any conversation, creating a one-sided interaction. We need to work on email interfaces that encourage two-way conversations. By rendering email interactions more conversational, we can prevent a drift of B2C communication to messaging platforms that encourage instant feedback.

2. Powering identity

The move to passwordless authentication

We are on the brink of a significant change in how we manage online identities. Traditional email and password logins are being supplemented by identity management systems. Federated Credentials Management (FedCM) will enable users to log in with identity providers recognized by their browsers, paving the way for a passwordless sign in paradigm. The email industry must prepare for this shift by offering users choices beyond just Google, allowing them to select their own preferred email provider for authentication.

Verifying receivers

In addition to verifying senders, we must also focus on verifying receivers. Ensuring that there is a real person on the other end of an email interaction can enhance trust and open up new opportunities for personalized offers and communications. Identity providers will increasingly invest in verifying email account owners, as they need to enhance security and trust.

3. Enabling personal AI

Leveraging data for personal AI

Email will be essential to unlock the potential of personal AI. Email has more relevant data in one trusted place than any Internet platform. It encompasses our habits, interests, shopping, travel plans, and service needs. If we can build a necessary level of trust with users, they will be able to leverage the whole potential of data from their email accounts. AI will transform the way we manage and interact with email in three stages. According to Joel Miller from ExoBrain AI consultancy, these stages can be described as augmentation, automation, and autonomous AI. Jamie Smith has elaborately described this stages model in the context of Personal Agents.

In the first stage, augmentation, AI will help us with things we already do today by making them easier – e.g. summarize content, point out what is important today, or help writing an email. In the following step, it will automate things we otherwise need to do ourselves, such as curating newsletters and checking in for flights. Ultimately, personal AI can act as a delegated agent, making autonomous decisions within controlled and predefined boundaries.

Email format is perfect for AI

AI’s ability to process and understand the context of email interactions presents an amazing opportunity. Email’s flexible, rich text format is ideal for generative AI, allowing for seamless communication and automation. As AI continues to evolve, its integration into email will enhance productivity and user experience, making email an even more indispensable tool.

Embracing the quiet revolution

The stage is set for a quiet revolution in email. By focusing on improving communication, powering identity, and enabling personal AI, we can ensure that email remains a trusted and essential part of our digital lives. We need to work together to write the next chapter in the future of email, building on its legacy and adapting to the demands of the age of AI and digital assistants. Trust is the foundation upon which this future will be built, fueling innovation and enhancing the way we connect and communicate.


Alex Charles has been Chief Product Officer at 1&1 Mail & Media Applications SE (WEB.DE | GMX | since 2019. Alex is committed to ensuring that European users have a strong local choice for something as important as email and personal cloud.

Please note: The opinions expressed in Industry Insights published by dotmagazine are the author’s or interview partner’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the publisher, eco – Association of the Internet Industry.