Lauren's Blog: Google's New "AMP" Plan for "Interactive and Engaging" Email is
Google has announced the bringing of its "AMP" concept (an acronym for
"Accelerated Mobile Pages") to Gmail, and is encouraging other email
providers to follow suit.
AMP in the mobile space has been highly controversial since the word
go, mainly due to the increased power and leverage that it gives
Google over the display of websites and ads.
But the incorporation of AMP concepts into email, to provide what
Google is calling "a more interactive and engaging" email experience,
is nothing short of awful. It seriously sucks. It sucks so much that
it takes your breath away.
I am not in this post interested in how or by how much AMPed email
would push additional market power to Google. That's not my area of
expertise and I'll largely defer to others' analyses in these regards.
But I do know email technology. I've been coding email systems and
using email for a very long time -- longer than I really like to think
about. I was involved in the creation of various foundational email
standards on which all of today's Internet email systems are based,
and I have a pretty good feel for where things have gone wrong with
email during ensuing decades.
In fact, the introduction of "rich" email formats -- in particular
HTML email with its pretty fonts, animated icons, and wide array of
extraneous adornments -- can be reasonably viewed as the key
"innovations" that led directly to the modern scourge of spam,
phishing attacks, and a wide variety of other email-delivered criminal
payloads that routinely ruin innumerable innocent lives.
Due to the wide variety of damage that can be done through
unscrupulous use of these email formats, many sites actually ban
and/or quarantine all inbound HTML email that doesn't also include
"plain text" versions of the messages as well.
In fact, the actual underlying email specifications require such a
plain text version to accompany any HTML version. Unfortunately, this
requirement is now frequently ignored, both by crooks who use its
absence to try trick email users into clicking through to their
malignant sites, and by "honest" email senders who just don't give a
damn about standards and only care about getting their bloated
messages through one way or another.
This state of affairs has led many site administrators to consider
inbound HTML-only email to be a 100% signal of likely spam. Much
actually legit email is thrown into the trash unseen as a result.
Google now plans to be pushing what amounts to HTML email on steroids,
creating a new email "part" that will likely quickly become the
darling of the same email marketers -- further bloating email, wasting
data, and causing both more confusion for users and more opportunities
for virulent email crooks.
No doubt Google has considered the negative ramifications of this
project, and obviously has decided to plow ahead anyway, especially
given the rapidly growing challenges of the traditional website
I frequently am asked by users how they can actively avoid the tricky
garbage that arrives in their email every day. I have never in my life
heard anyone say anything like, "Golly, I sure wish that I could
receive much more complicated email that would let me do all sorts of
stuff from inside the email itself!"
And I'll wager that you've never heard anyone asking for "more
interactive and engaging" email. Most people want simple,
straightforward email, keeping the more complex operations on
individual websites that aren't "cross-contaminated" into important
AMP for email is a quintessential "solution in search of a problem" --
a system being driven by corporate needs, not by the needs of ordinary
Worse yet, if email marketers begin to widely use this system, it will
ultimately negatively impact every email user on the Net, with ever
more unnecessarily bloated messages clogging up inboxes even if you
have no intention of ever touching the "AMPed" portion of those
And I predict that despite what will surely be the best efforts of
Google to avoid abuse, the email criminals will find ways to exploit
this technology, leading to an ever escalating whack-a-mole war.
Throwing everything except the kitchen sink into HTML email was always
a bad idea. But now Google apparently wants to throw in that sink as
well. And frankly, this could be the final straw that sinks much of
email's usefulness for us all.
Lauren Weinstein (lau...@vortex.com): https://www.vortex.com/lauren
Lauren's Blog: https://lauren.vortex.com
Google Issues Mailing List: https://vortex.com/google-issues
Founder: Network Neutrality Squad: https://www.nnsquad.org
PRIVACY Forum: https://www.vortex.com/privacy-info
Co-Founder: People For Internet Responsibility: https://www.pfir.org/pfir-info
Member: ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800
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