Google announced yesterday that it has improved the way Gmail handles images. For Gmail users it touts increased security and convenience by now serving all images through Googles own proxy servers.
Unscrupulous web types can harm your computer through image files, which is why most e-mail services like Gmail ask before showing images in emails and Google now hosting images provides another layer of protection against image abuse. Equally Google can now provide faster loading for images from trusted sources if viewed on a web browser.
However, not everyone is happy. E-mail marketers are decrying the move by Google as an anti-competitive move designed to direct marketing budgets away from e-mail and toward Google products like pay per click. The reasoning being that images on marketing materials are hosted on third party servers, and when the images load they send information about the user; they let the marketer know you’ve opened their email, that you’re interested in their goods or services.
Google caching images means limiting data for marketers. However, the most important data—that the recipient opened the e-mail and have clicked through—will still be available to marketers. They will no longer be able to see if you’d opened the email multiple times. Also, this will make data on unique opens much more accurate.
Equally worth noting is that this only affects emails viewed on web browsers, and only about 3% of all emails are opened on Gmail clients.
There seems to be other benefits to e-mail marketers focusing around hosting—in short, image caching on Google’s proxy servers means less strain on marketers’ servers. However, whether the 3% of emails this will affect will provide significant impact seems unlikely.
Lastly, while this update will not trouble my sleep as a marketer, on a personal level as a Gmail user I worry about my images being hosted on Google servers. Though, if it seems like if I cared about privacy, I would have left Gmail years ago.