Technology

Could Google’s Latest AMP Play Change the Email Landscape?

By / Feb 15, 2018 (cnythzl/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

With its new AMP for Email endeavor, Google wants to modernize a platform that is famously developer-unfriendly. Some are skeptical of the shift, but it could prove a pivotal change for a fundamental communication format for associations.

If your association has a lot of time and effort invested into email marketing, you may want to listen in on some big changes Google is proposing.

This week, the search giant, which owns the dominant email tool Gmail, announced that it would introduce a new email production standard called AMP for Email. The tool, which is an offshoot of its open-source Accelerated Mobile Pages endeavor, promises to add interactivity to email messages, something that previously could be done only with inventive hacks.

“Many people rely on email for information about flights, events, news, purchases, and beyond—more than 270 billion emails are sent each day! AMP for Email will also make it possible for information to easily be kept up-to-date, so emails never get stale and the content is accurate when a user looks at it,” Gmail product manager Aakash Sahney wrote in a post on Google’s blog this week.

The initiative has the potential to shake up the email marketing space, which has struggled to keep pace with modern web design because of poor HTML standards support in many email clients, including Gmail and especially Microsoft’s Outlook. The situation has improved in recent years, with Gmail gaining better support for CSS in 2016,. But, building an email in 2018 still requires the use of tables and specialized code, design approaches that haven’t been in vogue for the web as a whole in more than a decade.

Google’s initiative, which would make it possible to, say, save a pin on Pinterest directly from Gmail, is fairly bold, but the company emphasizes that it’s designed in a way that would gracefully degrade for those older clients, and additionally would turn emails into plain text when necessary.

However, AMP is considered one of Google’s more controversial endeavors because of a feeling among analysts that it gives Google too much authority over the web experience. (Despite that, the AMP technology, which speeds up mobile sites, has become very popular and a reliable traffic driver for many websites.) And that sentiment was immediately shared by TechCrunch writer Devin Coldewey, who called the new initiative “a terrible idea.”

“AMP is, to begin with, Google exerting its market power to extend its control over others’ content. Facebook is doing it, so Google has to,” Coldewey wrote. “Using its privileged position as the means through which people find a great deal of content, Google is attempting to make it so that the content itself must also be part of a system it has defined.”

Email-development experts were more mixed overall. Justin Khoo, the owner of blog FreshInbox, noted some elements he liked but found the overall approach “overkill,” as it added elements of programming to the email medium and moved away from traditional programming standards.

“I’d rather Google just sprinkle AMP support within regular HTML and use progressive enhancement capabilities already adopted in interactive email to enable interactive AMP features within Gmail,” he wrote.

Whatever the case, AMP for Email, which Google is campaigning for other clients to support, promises to potentially change up the email-development environment in the coming years. Depending on how things go, it could be good news for associations and nonprofits that rely on email marketing to get their messages to the world.

For those interested in trying it, the company will offer a developer preview for testing purposes and has an announcement video from its AMP Conference on YouTube.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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