Hello Gmail Images bye-bye Location and Device reporting


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.


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!

CSS 3 and the pulsating glow button

Although support for CSS in email clients is patchy at best (and a nightmare at worst) we can still use some of the newest features provided by CSS3 as long as we can provide suitable alternatives for the less capable inboxes.


Here is an example of a special call to action that will not only animate but also display fully even when images are turned off.

How it’s done

This CSS must be placed in your html documents head as internal CSS it will not work if it is put inline. Vendor prefixes have been used for the gradient to ensure it displays in iCloud Mail no matter what web browser is used. The animation will only work in iOS devices so I have only used the -webkit prefix.

The HTML for the button <a> must sit within a table cell to fix a padding bug in Outlook. I also included much of the CSS for the button inline to ensure the colour, border and text would be formatted correctly even in less capable email clients.

A note on support

This code will not display the same in every inbox.  It will create a button of roughly the same size but the animation and other style features will change across different email clients.

iOS5, iCloud Mail
CSS3 border-radius, gradient & box-shadow. Animations work!




Thunderbird 9
CSS3 border-radius & gradient


Gmail, Hotmail
CSS3 border-radius & background colour

Outlook 2010, Yahoo! Mail
CSS3 border & background colour



The point worth mentioning is that even though Outlook and Yahoo are a bit pony it is still a good looking table button rather than an image button so it will be visible whilst images are off. Also the benefits of the curved corners and the gradient in most other inboxes + while the images are off, will help make the email look “shexzier” … Jordie 😉

Personally I think it is worth the trouble to get the buttons looking as nice as possible, but yes, the pulsing glow might be a little over kill for the effort for every button, so save it for the main call to action or something novel to attract attention in the same way as you would an animated gif.