Google has already put the wind up digital marketers once this year with its new tabbed-inbox system for Gmail, where promotional emails are hived off into a separate (and often rarely-viewed) inbox. Now the company is ending 2013 with another change to Gmail that’s provoking concern: it’ll automatically show images within emails. Why is this a worry for marketers? “Instead of serving images directly from their original external host servers, Gmail will now serve all images through Google’s own secure proxy servers,” explains Google’s Gmail blog. But the implications aren’t clear at all. Ars Technica suggested the change “blows up email marketing” because companies will get far less information on how people are opening their emails. Yet email marketing platform MailChimp says the opposite. “Image caching still lowers our ability to track repeat opens, but turning those images on means we’ll be more accurate when tracking unique opens. At least, theoretically it should work that way,” it explained in a blog post. “By leaving images turned off, Gmail has been allowing subscribers to open emails without downloading our tracking pixel, so those opens were invisible to us. If Gmail is going to display images automatically, those previously invisible opens should suddenly become visible.”

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