Email is quietly one of the most ubiquitous forces in the tech industry. It doesn’t have the brand cachet of an iPhone or the cutting-edge brilliance of a Tesla. Despite this, the vast majority of the adult population uses it on a daily basis to coordinate everything from their business affairs to dinner dates. There’s no doubt that email is the digital king and has been for quite some time. Rather remarkably, it’s accomplished this feat while being loathed by the majority of its users, many of whom view it as a nuisance at best and a manifestation of their 9-to-5 grind at worst.
Google recently set out to change this by announcing a new programming language specifically for Gmail that will allow email to function more like any other app that one might access on their phone or tablet, both in terms of aesthetics and general functionality. Given the resentment toward traditional email clients, their antiquated designs and functionalities and the recent explosion of mobile tech, it’s surprising that this hasn’t happened already.
The new application programing interface (API) replaces Gmail’s outdated internet message access protocol (IMAP) language and allows all apps to communicate with Gmail using modern programming language. This will allow users to ask Google for messages, drafts and threads up to ten times faster than they previously could using IMAP systems. All apps will interact with Gmail in a speedy, efficient way that negates the need for a separate and dedicated mail client for each of those apps.
API can’t replace traditional IMAP systems, primarily because it isn’t capable of sending push notifications – a must for mobile communication – and because there are strict limits on the number of API requests each user can make per day, which limits its functionality for a large swath of users.
Despite this minor caveat, this development presents an intriguing new marketing avenue. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, over 75 percent of businesses have developed specific mobile email marketing plans. Many also target customers via highly personalized email blasts designed to highlight their personal interests drawn from their searching and browsing habits. With so much traffic shifting to mobile platforms, this will simply allow marketing agencies to further profile certain demographics and adjust their advertising to have a greater effect.
As API is going into effect in one of the world’s most popular email clients, it’s only a matter of time before it trickles down to other clients and platforms. This type of saturation is where API’s real value lies. If it can become fully integrated in all email clients, it could completely change the way we look at the web’s most popular feature.
[Sources: Vocus, The Verge]