Commentary

The Email Bottleneck: Godin Sounds Off On Gmail

Is Gmail acting as a “choke point” for blogs and other content? That wise pundit Seth Godin thinks it is. Godin has published an open note to Google, all but accusing it of sidelining emails in its promotions folder to make a buck.

“The last time I checked, you've moved more than 100,000 messages to my promotions folder. Without asking,” he writes.

Worse, he adds. “You take the posts from this blog and dump them into my promo folder — and the promo folder of more than a hundred thousand people who never asked you to hide it.”

Also are being blocked are emails from Godin’s favorite charities, The Domino Project Blog, messages Medium, from courses he is signed up for, from services he confirmed the day before. These are “items sent with full permission, emails that by most definitions aren't "promotions."

Godin seems glad that Gmail exists, but he notes that users are “the product, not the customer. Your goal is to keep people within the Google ecosystem and to get the writers and marketers who use email as a permission asset to instead shift to paying money (to Google) to inform and reach their audience.”

He reminds Google that it has a responsibility — “the same responsibility that the postal service has... to deliver the mail.

So what is his solution? A whitelist. Gmail should “Include the top 10,000 blogs (you probably still have the list from when you shut down Google Reader),” Godin writes.

He adds: “When an email sender shows up regularly, it's probably a smart idea to ask before unilaterally shifting it to the promo folder.

“Blogs subscribed to shouldn't be messed with. The flow of information by email is an extraordinary opportunity, and when a choke point messes with that to make a profit, things break.”

Good point, although email services also misdirect emails into spam folders. Let’s see what — if anything — Gmail does about it.

Here’s one more gripe. Godin adds that, “while you're upgrading the system, what's up with all the weird sex spam we've been getting the last four months? It doesn't seem that difficult to distinguish it from actual human emails...”

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