Industry Updates

Google announces the death of Inbox

Not with a bang, but with a tweet: yesterday Google announced via Twitter that Inbox, their alternative mail client introduced in 2014, will shut down as of March 2019.

Screen Shot 2018-09-13 at 10.28.45 AM

The transition guide linked in the tweet notes that some of Inbox’s features will be integrated into the traditional Gmail product, including Smart Reply and snooze/nudge options for delayed follow-ups.

The closure of Inbox is not likely to have a major impact on senders. While messages were grouped slightly differently, the structure of Inbox is similar to that of Gmail’s tabs and labels. With that said, it’s always important to watch your own metrics and be mindful of any changes in Gmail response rates around the time of shutdown.

While Google never released solid numbers, it’s easy to infer that Inbox never gained the kind of traction they had hoped – or maybe it was a glorified sandbox that allowed them to test some of their ideas for the primary Gmail product. In any case, those of us who used it as our daily driver are left looking for an alternative before next spring.

– BG

 

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Industry Updates

Oath update: AOL, Yahoo, Verizon MTAs and FBLs

Last week, the Oath Postmaster blog published an update on the status of their email migration. AOL (who previously absorbed Verizon’s email) and Yahoo are moving closer to their end goal of a unified email platform under the new Oath brand.

According to the post, all mail sent to either brand is now “handled by…OATH MTAs.” So when you send to any address at aol.com, aim.com, verizon.net, yahoo.com, or any other domain controlled by these providers, the mail is all routed through the same system – including spam filtering. Reports have been surfacing on some industry forums of AOL bounces for Yahoo addresses and vice versa. As a sender, this also means you should start aggregating these domains for your reporting purposes. Monitoring complaints, bounces, and other metrics for anomalies should consider Oath as a single entity – word on the street indicates most ESPs have already begun this process for their customer monitoring.

In addition, spam complaints for AOL recipients will soon be received via the existing Yahoo feedback loop. Since Yahoo’s FBL is domain-based, all mail to AOL addresses must be DKIM-signed to participate in the FBL (if it isn’t already). If you use an ESP that hosts your DKIM, they may need to double-sign to ensure all FBL complaints are received.

So far, the Oath Postmaster blog and their participation in various industry channels have provided regular updates on the migration. Let’s hope that pattern continues as the two current Postmaster sites are combined into an upcoming Oath Postmaster resource.

– BG

Industry Updates

Spamcannibal’s brief zombie run

Earlier this week the spam blacklist Spamcannibal, which had been returning no listings for a few months, had its domain expire and become redirected to some pretty nasty auto-downloads. Many of us suspected malware because of the multiple redirects and prompts to download a Flash update, but that has yet to be confirmed.

In the meantime, though, Al Iverson was able to get in touch with the operator, who has since retaken control of the domain and is working to sunset the list in a more respectable fashion. So Spamcannibal remains dead, but at least the malware zombies no longer have control of the domain.

– BG

Industry Updates

UCEProtect gets busy; Spamcannibal calls it quits (maybe?)

UCEP

This past Friday, May 25th, was a very busy day in the email and privacy world. The EU’s Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect, prompting all sorts of privacy policy updates (which in turn prompted all sorts of emails about those updates). From my own experience and the shared experiences of many others, it seems most of these emails cast a very wide net – devoid of targeting or list hygiene. Many of us received updates from brands we don’t remember engaging – and others with which we never did. As a result of all this email, the German UCEProtect blacklist was also very busy, seeing a surge in IPs appearing on its blacklists (h/t Word to the Wise). We’ve seen a small surge in the number of client IPs on UCEProtect as well, but haven’t been able to correlate it directly to GDPR notices. As Laura notes, UCEProtect is not typically a list that causes many bounces, so seeing your IP(s) there is more of a nuisance in most cases.

spamcan1In other blacklist-related news, it appears the Spamcannibal blacklist has shut down. The domain (don’t go there, really) now presents a number of nefarious redirects instead of the blacklist content. No official announcement has been provided, but the Spamcannibal list was considered among the less-reliable blacklists by many in the industry. If the shutdown is permanent, the impact is likely to be minor as the list was not widely used for inbound mail filtering.

– BG

Industry Updates

Missing data at Google Postmaster Tools

Over the past week, there have been many reports of missing data for Google Postmaster Tools. From what we can see, it appears data on the Spam Rate, IP Reputation, Domain Reputation, Feedback Loop, and Delivery Errors tabs stopped updating for some folks around April 11th or 12th. According to information posted in an industry forum, Google is aware of the issue and working to resolve it. Some progress has been made, but no official statement has been made (seems to be par for the course with Google).

GPT

As of this morning in my own account, most tabs have data up to 4/13 (with a gap on 4/12) and data for 4/17, but everything between is missing. It remains to be seen whether the missing data will be restored. After a similar issue last September, Google was able to restore the data pretty quickly – hopefully that will be the case here as well.

– BG

Industry Updates

Gmail not displaying images by default for some messages (UPDATED 4/5/18)

There have been some reports floating around today of Gmail not displaying images for some messages.

CaptureIn my testing I’ve been able to reproduce it with some messages in the Promotions tab, but only in the “classic” Gmail web interface. However, these same messages display images when viewed in Inbox.

This seems intentional, although no official announcement has been made. Maybe Google is launching a push to encourage migrating to Inbox? We’ll await word from the Gmail team, but in the meantime more testing is in store to pin down exactly what in the message is triggering the change.

4/5/18 UPDATE: It seems this change was not permanent, with all messages appearing to display images (even those previously not displaying them). Google has been silent about this, so we’re still unsure if this was some sort of test, an error, or something else entirely.

– BG

Industry Updates

Yahoo introduces Google-style image caching in email (UPDATE: confirmed with more details)

Geocache Cache Small Geocaching Logbook In late 2013, Google began to cache all images in email sent to Gmail users, storing remotely-hosted images on their own servers instead of accessing them each time an email is opened. Laura at Word to the Wise wrote up some good info at the time, focusing mainly on the parts of email tracking that were (or were not) affected by the changes.

Fast forward to 2018, and it looks like Yahoo has adopted a similar policy of image caching. According to Litmus, Yahoo recently began caching images on their servers in the same manner as Google. And like Google’s version, this one won’t break open tracking –  but could cause some unusual data points or issues with geolocation or user agent tracking. If you track the location of email opens, you’re likely to start seeing a lot more traffic from Sunnyvale, CA (the location of Yahoo’s servers), and any dynamically-generated content based on the location of the recipient will reflect that. In fairness, IP geolocation has never been a precise science, so most marketers should rely on other signals along with that data to serve up location-specific content.

When Google introduced this feature, they used it as a platform to allow images to load by default for all mail sent to the Inbox. There has been no announcement or indication thus far, but Is it possible Yahoo is planning a similar feature? As with most of the changes taking place under the new Oath umbrella; we’ll just have to wait and see. Yes, according to the answers provided by the Yahoo Engineering blog.

This morning, they officially announced the change, also confirming images will now be on by default for Yahoo and AOL in desktop and mobile versions. We can likely presume this applies only to messages in the inbox, though no specifics are provided. The post also indicates that Yahoo will “continue to support most” open tracking via pixel, though again details are sparse.

And for those using IP geolocation to serve dynamic content, the authors “recommend falling back on other tools and technologies which do not rely on IP-based targeting.” I won’t say I told you so.

– BG