- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 20, 2005


In the year 2009, on the 25th of April, a man named Greg is supposed to get an e-mail. It will remind him that he is his own best friend and worst enemy, that he once dated a woman named Michelle, and that he planned to major in computer science.

The e-mail was sent by Greg himself — through a Web site called FutureMe.org. It is one of the messages open to public view at the site, and Greg used only his first name.

FutureMe.org is one of a handful of Web sites that let people send e-mails to themselves and others for delivery years in the future. They are technology’s answer to time capsules, trading on people’s sense of curiosity, accountability and nostalgia.

“Messages into the future is something that people have always sought to do,” said Paul Saffo, director of the Institute for the Future, a research group. “In a way, it’s a statement of optimism.”

Matt Sly came up with the concept for FutureMe.org about four years ago after recalling how, during his education, he had been given assignments to write letters to himself.

Mr. Sly, 29, who partnered with 31-year-old Jay Patrikios of San Francisco on the project, said the site has made maybe $58 through donations. He insists it is not a reminder service and that users should think in the long term.

FutureMe.org and other service providers try to make the delivery process fail-safe through partnerships or backup software, and they urge people to hang on to their e-mail addresses, but there’s no ironclad guarantee that the message will ever arrive.

FutureMe.org lets people send messages for delivery as much as 30 years from now, though Mr. Sly’s numbers show most users schedule their e-mails to be sent within three years.

“We want people to think about their future and what their goals and dreams and hopes and fears are,” he said. “We’re trying to facilitate some serious existential pondering.”

Recently, Forbes.com jumped on the idea, offering an “e-mail time capsule” promotion. More than 140,000 messages were collected over about six weeks. Nearly 20 percent are supposed to land in the sender’s inbox in 20 years, but others requested shorter time frames.



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