On May 27, Google demonstrated Google Wave, a new Open Source application based on HTML 5 standards. The presentation by developers Lars and Jens Rasmussen and Stephanie Hannon from Google's Sydney office shows a Gmail inbox on steroids, where the worlds of email, social networking, instant messaging and document collaboration collide. This creates an integrated string of disparate communications call "Waves" where the lines between various media and real-time, on and off-line communications are blurred.
Microsoft, too, is trying to change the versatility of email with its upcoming release of Outlook 2010. Mainly geared towards businesses, this new version of Outlook will try to mimic some social networking, allowing users to view emails as conversation threads coupled with the ability to hide threads they aren't interested it. The announcement that Microsoft plans to continue to use Word as the main HTML-rendering engine for Outlook is providing a lot of grumbling in the email marketing community because of the message design obstacles the application causes.
New Protocols On The Horizon
Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) hasn't changed much since it was widely adopted in the 1980s, when ARPANET was converted to what is known as the Internet today. The protocol lacks the processes necessary to facilitate a seamless real-time collaboration and interactivity that newer technologies such as social networking encompass. However simple, SMTP's wide implementation and open roots can be directly attributed to the successful proliferation of email use among Internet users. SMTP is also blamed for the wide spread of spam because it lacks sender authentication technology. Enter the Google Wave Federation Protocol, an Open Source communications protocol to facilitate Google Wave technology.
And if you think Microsoft, Yahoo and FaceBook are going to sit idle while Google muscles influence over the guts of future email communication protocols, think again. It's fairly certain that one of these companies will extend their current platforms to compete with Google Wave and they will be reluctant to support the Wave Federation Protocol. Eventually, some will cave as users demand cross-platform compatibility (Microsoft users able to communicate with Google Wave users).
The Carryover From Traditional Email
When these new communication platforms become compatible, it will open the gates to marketers, but you should certainly expect challenges from traditional email. For one, it is possible that spam could be curtailed, as authentication and security technologies would be built into these new security protocols. This would force marketers to solicit a true opt-in from subscribers, giving them full control of permission. Gone will be the days of implied opt-ins, purchased lists and other forbidden fruit that have tempted too many email marketers.
Another challenge Email 3.0 will offer users is an easier way to sort, categorize and mute different types of communications. The continued challenge for marketers will be not only to get permission, but to be relevant enough to stay at the top if the inbox queue. Even though the marketer might obtain permission, once muted, a marketer's message may never been seen again.
Many email pundits stress the importance of creating a dialogue with subscribers by using more engaging content. With Email 3.0, a true bi-directional dialogue will become necessary, as communications start to look more like Twitter, with subscribers expecting immediate responses to questions and inquiries. Telling subscribers not to respond or not responding will quickly get marketers muted, rendering their efforts useless.
These new advances in email technology are long overdue and surely welcome among consumers and business alike. These technologies will help to lift the overall email experience by providing a true integration of social media and other technologies. In addition, email marketing efforts that are slapdash and executed in haste will be rendered completely useless, as traditional challenges come to the forefront of the discipline, demanding greater respect from marketers.