Back in 1996, Microsoft introduced Public Folders as a replacement for social aliases, and was “designed from the ground up to enhance group collaboration applications” (per this Lane Severson blog post)
By the time that Exchange 2003 was released (13 years ago!), however, the rumors that public folders would be discontinued in a future release of Exchange were swirling around. Take for instance this WindowsIT Pro post from 2004:
The handwriting has been on the wall for public folders for a year or two. I first heard a Microsoft speaker strongly discourage use of public folders at the MEC 2002 conference. An administrator who attended the same session was in a state of near panic because her university has thousands of public folders in active use.
In a TechRepublic 2010 post it was declared that public folders would probably be gone by Exchange 2013:
Since before the release of Exchange 2007, Microsoft has been telling us that public folders will eventually be discontinued. This hasn’t happened just yet though. Public folders are alive and well in Exchange 2010. Even so, public folders probably won’t be supported in the next version of Exchange.
So here we are in 2016, and guess what? Not only are public folders still around, Microsoft has decided that “public folders are great” per this Microsoft Technet FAQ:
No. Public folders are great for Outlook integration, simple sharing scenarios, and for allowing large audiences to access the same data.
And on February 1, 2016, Microsoft announced they will be increasing the number of public folder mailboxes in Exchange 2016 from 100 to 1,000!
Happy 20th birthday to Public Folders!