Inbox Wars – Gmail images

inbox wars

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As you may or may not have heard Gmail has decided to automatically load images for all of its users.

”yaaaay!” I hear you cry.

“But why didn’t they do this earlier?” … is a great question.

Images are blocked to stop spammers finding about live inboxes and to stop viruses getting into your computers and phones through images. This was a famous way of getting infected back in the late nineties when Outlook used the “open doorway to viruses” that was older versions of internet explorer to render emails. Now Outlook uses MS word, you are far safer, however the rendering is horrific. This is when the preheader “Can’t see this email? click here” was born.

On the back of this almost everyone started to block images for security reasons both in installed email clients and the web-app clients. Except on a Mac as they weren’t targeted with these kind of viruses to the extent Windows was.

Then along came the iPhone and suddenly Windows users were presented with an inbox that didn’t block images; at this point people started to wonder why this wasn’t normal practice.

Since Google is in direct competition with Apple for phones and in direct competition with Microsoft for cloud office, their email services had to keep up with Apple as well as stay ahead of Microsofts Office365 and Outlook.com

Outside of the inbox’s “always show images from this sender” button, Microsoft already had a few auto-load images options:

Senderscore certification: if you qualify, you can pay ReturnPath for a safelisting which tells most big inboxes such as Yahoo and Hotmail (not Gmail) that you are a safe sender. These inboxes will then let you in and generally auto-load your images. This is particularly good as the images off experience in Hotmail is terrible.

Recently with the rebrand to Outlook.com, Hotmail have been using their background reputation system to decide to auto-load images of some senders. This has not been consistent but a nice change.

Gmail meanwhile was not without it’s own tricks: Gmail’s images off experience was one of the best around. Gmail knows that their audience understand image blocking, so doesn’t go over the top like Microsoft has done previously. Instead Gmail will show alt text in most situations, it will show background colours and will let you style the alt text, Pizza Express used this very well!

Also if a user replies to an address more than twice, Gmail will decide that the sender is a trusted contact and start to autoload the images.

Today, Gmail will lead the windows, online and Android inbox experience with consistent autoloading of images, putting an end to having to load the images each time.

Don’t forget to turn on your Android phone’s email sync!

Hello Gmail Images bye-bye Location and Device reporting

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As announced yesterday on Gmail’s official blog, Gmail will now always show images for all inboxed emails on any device.

This means as long as you use a Gmail official inbox you will not have to do anything to get the images to show once you open the email.

Yaaaay!!!

Just in case you were wondering how Gmail are able to do this safely without the threat of viruses being downloaded through images (this being the reason why they were blocked in the first place), here’s the skinny…

Google are serving the images themselves, not looking them up from your web-space each time!

How, what keh? – I know it’s a bit techy but the point is fairly important, as are the consequences, so bear with me:

When someone, ie: you, opens the email for the first time instead of the inbox loading the images from your image store web space, like a web-page would, Google’s own servers will load the images and save them on Google web space, then the email will load the from there.

Every time you open that email, the images are already at Google and therefore will load much quicker. This also means that Google will have checked every image for security at their end before giving you the images themselves, rather than an unknown party.

I’m not sure how many people visit an email on multiple occasions, but the mobile inbox triage and open by device patterns seem to suggest that people read emails whilst on the go in the day, then click through on the relevant ones when they get home/to work over wifi.

As a receiver and a reader of emails, I am delighted!

As an email marketer I am delighted about the images loading, however I am FURIOUS about the cost!

By caching the images themselves Google has killed off the extra reporting email marketers get when someone loads the images, so no more Opens By Device and Geo-Location reporting.

This is a universal occurrence and will affect all marketers and ESPs a like. It has nothing to do with which software you use to send your emails, it is completely about how Gmail works not how the emails are sent or by who.

The reason why these are affected is because Email marketers’ abilities to have all of this information relies on a single image in the marketing email and the way that image is loaded by the inbox is what tells us which device they use and where(ish) they are.

Now every Gmail open will supply only information about the Google server which caches the images. So you might find that you have a lot of new openers in America or wherever Google’s nearest data centre is.

This is a great pity and I am keeping an eye on the situation. There is a slim chance they will slightly alter the process to let some detail slip through, you’ll know when I know

This will also likely put an end video in Gmail and dull the effects dynamic images.

Video is no great loss, it was only novelty from HTML5 and I’m fine with it being only for web-pages.

Dynamic images are a bit of a loss though. The ability to server up a different image depending on the time someone opens an email is great for sales and deadline offers. If you open an email today you could see an accurate count down timer to Christmas, if you open that email tomorrow the timer will still be correct because it is served dynamically. Now Gmail caches the image you will also only see the first image.

NOT ALL GMail users will be affected – this is only happening to people who use Gmail apps: Gmail browser inbox and Gmail mobile apps; Inboxes like iPhone’s native inbox, Outlook and Thunderbird are not affected!

According to Movableinc: “More Gmail recipients open email on iOS devices (iPhones and iPads) than through any other email service — including web-based Gmail itself, which greatly mitigates the impact of the changes, and is the reason why they only affect 2% – 5% of most email marketers’ subscribers.”

There is rumor that not all ESPs will report repeat opens, any that don’t probably will soon now that EmailExpert has broken the story and given the solution; It is not that worrying for sender, a re-open is very very rare!

Gmail gets preview pane

[tweetmeme source=”getintheinbox” only_single=false]First things first – yay! This may be the final straw to complete my migration from Thunderbird?

Although I can insert raw HTML into Thunderbird and the Mozilla wysiwyg is gravy, however, for daily use I may sack it off and go browser!

I saw the tweet from Striata’s very own miss awesomeness 2010/11: “Mia Papanicolaou” and clicked straight through – if it were an email  I was converted from the subject line – to the official Gmail blog announcing a new Gmail lab for a preview pane, I then ran back to gmail added it and it’s gravy!

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Currently I personally prefer the vertical split in Gmail over the the horizontal split in that I normally go for in Thunderbird or Outlook.

Now I’ve got Priority Inbox, Multiple Inboxes and now the Preview Pane. I’m not sure how well they will all exist together but time will tell and the novelty is getting me through any work flow changes that could be otherwise inconvenient. Once the novelty value has dropped I’ll be able to make a proper decision. Maybe the preview pane will trump Multiple Inboxes, who knows!

I am, however, slightly concerned over how excited I am about this feature of Gmail…
Even more so when I realise I stopped re-building a template for a D-K cup biki brand to write this blog??!

I don’t think I’m well, I think I need a pint (or 6)!
It’s 14:20 I should just about be able to hang on another couple of hours ;-D