When was the last time you were lost on your smartphone? Because for me, it was just this morning. Whether on Facebook, Twitter, or email itself, I end up tapping something that takes me to a web page stuck inside an app, and I’m left scratching my head, wait, aren’t I just on the web? What app am I in again?
Now Google is taking aim at just this problem with a new initiative called AMP for Email. Instead of an email from Pinterest just kicking you to some in-app browser or an external app as soon as you tap one of its links, a new AMP-infused Pinterest email is the web. So you can pin to your heart’s content, right inside the email window. With AMP for Email, you never need to leave the message itself to browse web content.
How does Google pull this off? It’s letting email developers incorporate its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) standard. You probably already use AMP every day without realizing it. Basically, Google caches many publisher websites so that they load faster–meaning much of the news we consume on a daily basis is often delivered via AMP. (In fact, AMP now sends more traffic to publishers than Facebook.) But there’s a catch: For now, Gmail is the only email client supporting the spec. However, it’s an open standard, so any other email app is free to use it, too.
Usually this sort of insider baseball development standard stuff isn’t worth writing about, but AMP for Email comes at a particularly salient time. The opaque algorithms of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram can make promoting content organically (i.e., without paying) a tricky matter. As a publisher especially, you may have an important piece of news for the world to read, but unless you pay to promote it, you’re just hoping that the right people see the story and share it across social media.
This trend has made the humble email newsletter a resilient tool for publishers and advertisers alike. Emails–disregarding the truly annoying spam, of course–are still vital to getting your eyes on a clearance deal for Gap jeans along with fascinating stories like this one. In an uncertain digital world, the global adoption of good old email keeps growing at a steady rate, year after year–probably because it’s both so personal and predictable in the age of random feeling, social news feeds. People just seem to like email, even if we sometimes complain about it. It has the highest ROI in digital marketing.
But as I mentioned earlier, apps, websites, and email don’t mix all that well on smartphones–whether we’re talking iOS or Android. While linking from one app to another is entirely possible, most apps opt to keep us inside (likely to keep their overall engagement up, but it’s also just generally faster, too). This tendency has brought us to a weird time when your phone’s entire metaphor of one app for every purpose is shattered. Your primary web browser app is secondary to browsing the web within the containers of Gmail or Facebook. As a result, your mental construct of what content lives where is broken, and it’s now incredibly easy to get lost on your phone.
I’m not sure that AMP email will fix this problem, but it’s a start. Instead of shuttling the user from an email to the web and back, email is simply becoming the web–a deep, browsable entity rather than a shallow promotional facade. And with more clear information available at our fingertips, I’m betting it’s the type of update that will be better for users, publishers, and promoters alike.