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> The huge problem with any replacement (aside from federation) is the network effect.

Indeed, it’s the main catch. If at certain point ago critical fraction of people (‘everyone’) all were using X for what we currently use email for, be X IRC or anything else, then X’d probably be the today’s email.

Services such as the aforementioned Slack seem to be going maybe the only pragmatic ‘email disruption’ route. In corporate world you can have the central authority say “everyone use this or you’re fired!” and thus bypass the network effect barrier.

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