The man, identified by Interpol only as "Mike," is believed to be the leader of an international email scam.

Imagine it: a life freed from the drudgery of deleting an inbox full of “unbeatable offers” and the latest missive on paper clips from head office. E-mail could follow the telex into the dustbin of communication tools we have loved and discarded if Thierry Breton, chief executive of the information technology services company Atos, is a guide to the future.

Breton is to ban his staff from sending each other e-mails, complaining that they waste time and are outmoded. Only 10 percent of the 200 electronic messages his employees receive per day turn out to be useful, Breton claims.

“The deluge of information will be one of the most important problems a company will have to face [in the future]. It is time to think differently,” he claimed.

Internal e-mail will be phased out inside 18 months. The 75 000 staff will instead use instant messaging and chat-style collaborative services inspired by sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Atos staff used to spend between five and 20 hours a day dealing with e-mail, but use of Breton’s replacements has cut its use by up to 20 percent, the firm claims.

His strategy has already been adopted by teenagers, who are shunning the now middle-aged e-mail, which was first developed in 1971. E-mail use is down 31 percent among the 12-17 age group this year, with a further 21 percent slump among those aged 18-24.

Mobile Instant Messaging (IM) services such as Blackberry Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger have supplanted e-mail for the tech-savvy next generation. Cellphone IM users are predicted to exceed 1.3 billion worldwide by 2016.

However, if those teens are fortunate enough to find jobs, they will probably still find themselves enmeshed in e-mail’s spam-blighted grip.

The proportion of British firms sending more than 50 000 e-mails each month has gradually increased in the last four years, from 40 percent in 2007 to almost two thirds (60 percent) in 2011.

Spam still accounts for an estimated 89 percent of all e-mails.

What could replace e-mail as a hassle-free, more collaborative communication tool?

Yammer, a micro-blogging “Facebook for business” which allows groups of employees to share ideas through private communication, is now used by more than 80 000 firms.

Breton has introduced the Atos Wiki, which allows all employees to communicate by contributing or modifying online content, and Office Communicator, the company’s online chat system which allows video conferencing, file and application sharing.

If e-mail is dying, it will be a lingering demise. However, the IM generation, when they break into the workforce, are likely to demand new, liberating communication tools and free us from the web of e-mail despair.

Tim Waters, senior analyst at the technology research company Forrester Research, said: “The Atos directive is working because the average age of their employees is 35 – it reflects their young workforce.” – The Independent

What’s replacing e-mail:

Twitter

Widely used for news gathering, broadcasting and simply passing time, but has not become a major communications tool, although it does have a private messaging service.

Facebook

What unites most users is that it is a personal communications tool, rather than one to be used at work.

Google Docs

Create a document, save and publish it and allow people to share and edit it: simple and effective.

Could be used to post messages to large numbers of people at once.

BBM/WhatsApp

Instant messenger services are already widely used; the newer version is mobile instant messaging apps.