The Case Of Disappearing E-Mails

When you send an e-mail the next time, and don’t receive a reply, don’t assume that your note was binned, without being read. It may have never reached in the first place.

E-mail is losing its predictability.

We send e-mail under a tacit, technical trust: that it will arrive.

It used to be that if mail failed, it bounced. Using the Tibetan book of the dead, e-mail header specifications, and a knowledge of geography, I could sniff out what had gone wrong from the daemon that replied: a dead server, a misnamed domain, or a user who left the company.

But now e-mail sinks without a trace.

Many dozens of emails I’ve sent in the last year have never reached even a recipient’s filtered folder. Likewise, many messages never arrive into my inbox or spam folder.

No rejection message arrives, to be decoded; no ham waits to be discovered among the spam. Mails are simply disappearing.

We can embrace e-mail’s emerging ambiguity. If a sender can never know whether we received a message, the social expedient of “I’m terribly sorry; it must have landed in the bin” remains a viable white lie.



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