The end of one road…
If you’ve come here from our home page, you know Message Bus will soon close its doors. If not, we’ve just announced that SendGrid is acquiring our customers, and the team will move on to awesome new adventures!
Since I suddenly find myself not rushing to meet a product deadline, I wanted to say a little bit about why I felt Message Bus was so important to me, what I learned, and to try, just a little bit, to predict the future.
1. In the beginning
I moved to San Francisco in 2009 to work for Hotmail as its inbound delivery program manager. This meant I was responsible for the teams and software systems that received, filtered, and delivered email. A lot of email.
During the sell phase of the interview process, my future boss told me that Hotmail was like a telescope pointed back out at the internet: if you wanted to see what was happening, you need look no further than our logs. He wasn’t kidding, it was a treasure trove of information.
Emerging botnets, account hijackers doing shakedown runs of new-but-unreleased campaigns, the PowerPoint-based photo collection currently trending in Brazil, Fortune 100 companies having massive email screwups, which college networks were compromised and by whom/what, which domain sends the most email, the worst email, the most opened email, you get the idea.
The telescope also showed exactly how everyone on the sending side of the email ecosystem behaved. It would not only be ungentlemanly to name names, it would be unnecessary because the truth was that everyone behaved poorly.
What does it mean in email, for a sender to behave poorly? It means treating access to the inbox as a right, instead of a privilege. It means failing to account for the preferences of the real live human being on the other end.
So when, from behind our telescope, we saw the rise of multiple SaaS products offering Email API to developers, we realized email had been weaponized in a way that legacy players like Constant Contact or Mailchimp previously hadn’t. It was now trivial for a developer to incorporate email messaging directly into their app or service.
It also meant legions of new senders all behaving poorly, making the same basic operational mistakes, getting blacklisted at Hotmail and elsewhere, hopping from service to service hoping their problems would magically disappear.
2. Message Bus
I joined Message Bus because I saw an opportunity to build a platform that would make it impossible to behave poorly. Then everyone could get down to the serious business of doing things other than dealing with their email programs constantly self-destructing.
The Message Bus platform was built around a set of ideas we thought of as being “recipient-centric”, and it worked. Fully authenticated email, different types of email segmented across dedicated IP addresses, and immediate and automatic opt-out handling were just a few of the things that contributed to an average first-attempt delivery rate above 96% and comparable inbox placement.
Simply put, your delivery issues evaporated after moving to Message Bus because we removed every single operational and policy barrier to success. If you still had problems when we were done with you, it was because you really were sending crap!
The problem was that our focus on engineers, operations, and support meant we weren’t actually solving the whole problem: the majority of legitimate email comes from marketers, and the crux of the problem is the intersection of their mandate (grow the business) and the sophistication of the email toolset (poor).
The combination has a toxic effect on email efficacy.
So we’d cracked the nut on highly reliable delivery & placement. Getting the message in front of the customer is only the prerequisite for engagement, and doesn’t imply high or sustained engagement, it just gets your foot in the door.
Sustained high engagement is the result of creating a meaningful connection with your customer. If they see that new email from you and just know there’s something good waiting inside, they’ll engage. Learn what they like, stop sending things they don’t want. Reach them when they’re most receptive, on the device and in the format with which they’re most active.
The future is all about completely optimizing your transactional & marketing programs to be recipient-centric.
The problem is that you can’t, because you don’t know how. The data is right there for you to use, but you don’t, and I don’t blame you.
The tools in your digital stack throw off an intimidating amount of data that can be used to optimize engagement. Almost no one uses that data to its full potential. Certainly, taking a narrow slice, very few Message Bus customers used that data, and colleagues at other messaging companies report the same troubling trend.
Companies like Segment, Mode, and so on aren’t going to solve the problem for you, because it isn’t something that can be playbooked. You need to be able to tie these things together yourself, quickly, easily, and with no visible seams. You will define the way value is extracted from the data.
Welcome to The Hub
This brings me to my main point about the state of the messaging industry and where it needs to go: the era of a dozen or more independent tools with their own information silos is fading. Tools like #Slack and Mixpanel herald the advent of a new era where information hubs will rule.
As I write this, no one has yet created the recipient-centric hub — a single lens through which you view your customer entire. Where everything you know about your customers based on their behavior and preferences is brought together to drive… no, automate how you engage with them.
This is why the end of Message Bus is so bittersweet: a messaging platform is a great foundation for such a hub, but we won’t have the chance to make it happen here.
So that means we’re all looking forward to what’s next. We’ll be spending the next month or so helping our customers make the move to SendGrid, but as soon as we’re done, you can bet we’re going to be working out how to make the hub live.
Thanks for reading, and here’s to seeing you again soon!
CEO, Message Bus