Evolution of Emails across 4 Decades

Theory of Email Evolution

In this world of interconnected devices, no one is oblivious to emails. A sea of emotions compared to 140 chars droplets of social media, email is an integral part of everyone’s daily life. Be it online shopping (single-channel), cross-channel or omni-channel marketing, emails are the central connection in all. But did you know that emails were invented as a tool for inter-departmental communications and only later used as a marketing tool?

It Started With a Test Message

In 1971, MIT was developing an intra-network system named ARPANET. First prototype of an electronic mail was conceptualized as an inter-departmental communication tool. Owing to the advantages over other communication channels such as fast and free to use, it was adopted very well.

First Instance of Mass Mailing

In 1978, Gary Theurk, a marketing manager, had to reach out to as many people as possible to inform them about his company’s newest product. Electronic mails being quick, he went forward and mass invited 400 people at ARPANET for a demonstration. This was phenomenal success for Gary’s company, but he was warned not to repeat it again.

Email Becomes Good Looking and Open for Public

About 13 years later, emails had a makeover with adoption of html, http protocols and left their plain text version behind. Email became more colorful, supporting image and background color.

In 1993–1997 Yahoo! Mail, AOL Mail, Hotmail and Gmail gained recognition as email clients, opening the doors of emails to public domain. Even though you needed an invite from an existing user to make an email address, this was a giant step in the direction of bringing emails to the masses.

Email Users Became Mobile and Demanded Responsiveness

Mobile phones evolved on their own pace and started coming bundled with custom ringtones, color display, multimedia support and native email clients amongst other bells and whistles. But the HTML emails being coded with fixed desktop screen width, would jumble up on the small screens of mobile. There were two options:

· Adopt plain text emails

· Makes email responsive to adjust as per screen width

Innovation is the name of the game and so the emails started becoming responsive by 2009. Moreover, since most mobile devices support animated GIFs and video playback, emails started featuring it frequently.

Increase User Interaction with Interactive Elements

Even though email clients don’t support JavaScript, all hopes for interactive elements inside an email isn’t lost. CSS support wrapped around HTML coding have helped in recreating the following website interactive effects right inside emails:

· Collapsible Menus

· Accordion Effect

· Countdown timer

· Tooltips

· Integrated Forms

· Flip Effect

· Scratch Effect and many more.

What’s in store for the future?

With almost 2.6 billion email users present globally, it’s time to get things automated. Since 2014 marketing emails are gradually becoming automated and trigger-based. It’s the age of Recommendation engines and Chat bots.

The following Infographic titled ‘Theory of Email Evolution’ talks about the major milestones achieved while the email progressed from plain text to ones we love…