Gmail takes further steps to confound marketers

Gmail takes further steps to confound marketers

Summary: Google wants the marketing budgets companies pay others for promotional services

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TOPICS: Tech Industry
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Earlier this year Google began filtering email newsletters into a separate folder in user’s inboxes. The move was explained as a way to help users organize their mail but in reality it was aimed at hampering Google’s competitors: other marketers and promoters.

Gmail filters out Google's competitors | ZDNet

Now it has taken further steps to hobble the marketing efforts of newsletter publishers by cacheing images found in emails.

Again, Google says it’s for the user’s benefit because it can protect them from images that, “compromise the security of your computer or mobile device.” It also speeds up the display of the image since it doesn’t have to be fetched from servers outside of Google.

However, those images are a vital component of tracking and metric systems used by the newsletter publishers to see who opened the email, and glean additional information.

Ron Amadeo at Ars Technica

Marketers get a rough idea of your location via your IP address. They can see the HTTP referrer, meaning the URL of the page that requested the image. With the referral data, marketers can see not only what client you are using (desktop app, Web, mobile, etc.) but also what folder you were viewing the e-mail in.

Google claims viewing images on external severs is a potential security risk. Taking that logic further, the browsing of web pages that aren’t on Google sites compromises your computer in the same way. Before long it’ll be Google’s web — anywhere else will be considered very risky.

"Welcome to the G-Web! All your marketing budgets are belong to us!”

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Official Gmail Blog: Images Now Showing

Gmail filters out Google's competitors | ZDNet

Topic: Tech Industry

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16 comments
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  • All the more reason for marketers to direct their budgets to

    Bing. They already get better returns there anyway.
    Johnny Vegas
    • These changes have benefitted me

      The separate folders DID help organize my email. And I am happy about the images in emails decision. Every email I get has empty boxes and I have to click on the "allow images' button. That's always annoyed me. I don't care what the implied sinister "real reason" is. Both of these things benefit me. I don't care if someone can now know i've opened an email with their images. I get very few junk on gmail and no spam whatsoever. The junk I get is from sites like zdnet and computerworld from when I signed up and I usually unsubscribe right away.
      drwong
    • Wah!

      I'll shed a tear for the spammers. I promise.
      LarsDennert
  • Ask before displaying external images

    I have that setting selected in G-Mail so I guess none of the advertisers were getting to see if I opened their SPAM.

    Now if Yahoo will give me the ability to block all media in the Yahoo Mail App like I can in the WEBUI, I would be very happy.
    CutRightSharpening
  • Preventing downloading of images - Not only Gmail

    I have set my Windows Live Mail desktop client (in Vista) to not download images without permission unless I have declared the sender to be a safe sender.
    DAS01
    • You don't understand the issue

      Other mail clients like Live and Thunderbird give the option of blocking images but as soon as you give permission the images and linked from their source, as they should be because it is a business practice of the sender. What Google is doing is confiscating the marketing value from the email by copying the image to their servers and breaking the link to the source which leaves them blind.

      It is peculiar timing for Google to pulling a stunt like that considering they are being investigated by several anti-trust bodies world wild for programming unfair advantages into their services much like Microsoft was doing in the 90s.
      Mythos7
  • No probs here

    Yep, like the fact that images are cached (some e-mails take forever to open through inadequately resources server capabilities), and love the fact marketers can't see what I'm doing with their mail without my permission.

    Bring it on.

    About the only thing I do not like about GMail (in my case Google Apps) is I can't send exe or zip files to my liking. As a paid subscriber I should be able to send whatever the hell I want.
    Ramrunner-5dd3e
  • Gmail takes further steps to confound marketers not named "GOOGLE"

    FTFY
    WTF Pancakes
  • couldn't have said it better drwong

    i wanted to comment, but to comment I had to register on zdnet. ok, fine. you guys have interesting articles sometimes. but I looked for a link to g+ to quick join...not there. that's fine. facebook. so I check no boxes that I want any newsletters from zdnet, of course. then a minute or two later I get an email from them saying my subscription changed...I will get some 8 or 10 regular newsletters. so I click on the link to unsubscribe. at the top of their unsubscribe page is a link that says 'receive no newsletters' or something like that. I do that, enter my email again and one of those security codes (can't get the reason for that--unnecessary hurdle?) and it says in 10 days the staff will do something. I guess this story is about zdnet not getting their newsletters into the hands would-be readers. I wonder, once a picture is shown in the email, is it then counted as read, and the person is used to pad zdnet's numbers for when they go to advertisers?
    bewolff
    • Sour grapes?

      Sorry ZDNet, but I too applaud Googles efforts. I suppose you'll just have to find another way to get your advertising past theirs. BTW, it's not just Gmail. Thunderbird and others swallow the pictures to prevent malware and tracking as well. Personally, I only subscribe to plain text versions of the newsletters (yours and others) and avoid the problem altogether.
      junk19
  • I turn off auto display of remote images by default

    on every device I set up. This is how SPAMMER know you've opened an email from them. If it's an ad I want to see I click (and how others how to click) on the link (usually at the bottom of the email) that loads the images.
    raleighthings
  • I don't get why this is a big deal.

    OK, I think Google deciding which folders my emails should be in is a "clippy moment" (It looks like you've received a newsletter in your email...how would you like me to help? BAH! GO AWAY!).

    But caching linked images to enchance security? why is this a big deal? I have disabled downloading of remote images for years in my email client to thwart spammers anyways. Tracking and targeted marketing is EVIL so doing something to stop it is quite in line with Google's original mission statement.

    Now, the only problem is that Google does just the same evil itself, and I would prefer that they dialled back their tracking and targeting themselves. Go ahead and bombard me with ads but PLEASE stop cyber stalking me with these creepy targeted ads (when I google for where to find accessories for my car and I start seeing ads for my make and model of car for the next several weeks all over the 'net doesn't make me buy more stuff from those advertisers, it creeps me out and makes me want to use your search less).
    Mark Hayden
    • You can limit what Google knows about you

      If you use things like DoNotTrackMe from abine.com, Adblock + and TPLs (Tracking Protection Lists) if on IE then you can limit how much the advertisers can bombard you with. This has two benefits; faster browsing because less data is sent to your machine and less tracking. The other part of it is to set your browser to block all third party cookies.

      The downside is that some websites will not work correctly especially when logging in so you may have to ease things a bit. One of the worst for that is the downloads from Adobe.com. You know, the ones who were so careless recently with all that user info that they allowed to be hacked.

      I love seeing all those blank spaces where they used to display ads. Some ads and tracking still gets through but overall it's a better experience.
      bd1235
  • lets see..ah no. 2222

    I like the idea that pics I dont want are filtered and stiped up beacons and spies. Sorry Ads are no different than any other NSA action just because it is a privet company spying on me rather than the government. real mail catalogs i dont want go in the trash, Tv ads I can mute, why should xyz ad company have any right to know what I look at. it is no different than the real world in that they throw there ads in the air and I throw then in the trash.
    delgen
  • Another happy Google customer here

    One reason that I happily pay Google for their services, including email, is that they continue working on my behalf. In this case, making my email experience better and safer. Of course they are trying to make money, but at least they give customers actual benefits in exchange. Consider the alternatives - purchasing separate antispam, antivirus, ad blocker, etc. plus their various subscription costs and ongoing maintenance requirements.

    Google's solutions certainly are not appropriate for every individual or organization, but you can't argue that they don't offer a convenient, cost-effective package that works great for the vast majority of people.
    rstoeber
  • Discouraging marketers

    from spamming my e-mail and gathering data behind the scenes if I view it.

    And the downside of this is what?
    sullivanjc