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Summary:

Gmail users now will actually get and see the images in their messages without all that tiresome clicking. But third-party marketers may not be so cheery.

gmail logo

If you’re sick of clicking on those “display images below” links in your email, you’ll probably like the change Google just initiated for Gmail.

The reason for those clicks is that until now, those images were served from third-party servers. But now they will be cached and scanned on Google’s secure proxy servers, Google said on a blog post Thursday. Gmail product manager John Rae-Grant explained the user impact:

So what does this mean for you? Simple: your messages are more safe and secure, your images are checked for known viruses or malware, and you’ll never have to press that pesky “display images below” link again.

Here’s the before:

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Here’s the after:

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Over at Ars Technica Ron Amadeo pointed to a plausible ulterior motive. When people download images from those third-party servers, they’ll get the image but also they give all those third-party servers lots of information about themselves. This change means those outside marketers will get less of that info since Google is caching, scanning and scrubbing those images before serving them up to the recipients. In essence, Google is inserting itself in the middle of that information flow.

Amadeo wrote:

“There’s also a bonus side effect for Google: e-mail marketing is advertising. Google exists because of advertising dollars, but they don’t do e-mail marketing. They’ve just made a competitive form of advertising much less appealing and informative to advertisers. No doubt Google hopes this move pushes marketers to spend less on e-mail and more on AdSense.”

Oh, if you want to keep the warnings and the clicking, you can authorize image display on a per-message basis, but you have to make that change under your settings tab.

  1. Gmail is still the best web-based email out there. But outlook.com is getting close.

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    1. what? r u serious?

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  2. This has been happening for several days, a week, maybe longer. The image can be viewed on screen and fit to the size of the screen, it can be downloaded or printed.

    One point, maybe the main point about this is that the sender of the image can no longer grab info about the recipient. If this is a form of higher security on Google’s part, then that is a good thing. The main purpose of not allowing images to be viewed except when the recipient chooses to do so is to prevent unsolicited images which may contain malware.

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    1. @don i didn’t notice any change to gmail yesterday….ckg now

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  3. Finally! Gmail really needed the upgrade!

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  4. Sweet, maybe then I will actually not delete the spam out of hand and actually see what they are trying to pitch.

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  5. I don’t see how this change will affect clicks as you indicated in your title.

    Btw, MailChimp has a good post about this change:
    http://blog.mailchimp.com/how-gmails-image-caching-affects-open-tracking/

    To me, the biggest question is whether or not Google is caching the same tracking pixel from an email marketer – if they are then the email marketer will see 1 unique open…

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    1. less clicks because i won’t have to click to see images any more, nor will anyone else.

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      1. I see…I think we’re talking about two different things. You’re talking about a click as an extra step to view image content in an email…which is not tracked as a metric for email performance from a marketer’s perspective. I’m referring to clicks in the email content itself, which is a key metric that email marketers look at. The point of contention with Gmail’s image caching that Amadeo points out in the Ars Technica article is that this move will now affect open rate data (MailChimp, HubSpot & others think it makes it more accurate) as well as the ability to track geo data. It has no direct bearing on CTR as traditionally measured for email marketing performance.

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        1. yes sorry, i meant clicks (in the headline) as clicks from an end-user’s perspective. I need to look more into how this will affect third-party marketers…. there is a difference of opinion as you say.

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  6. “No doubt Google hopes this move pushes marketers to spend less on e-mail and more on AdSense.”

    Uhh AdSense is where website owners make money. AdWords is what he was trying to say.

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