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Google Communications Network Networking Privacy The Internet

AMP For Email Is a Terrible Idea (techcrunch.com) 177

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via TechCrunch, written by Devin Coldewey: Google just announced a plan to "modernize" email with its Accelerated Mobile Pages platform, allowing "engaging, interactive, and actionable email experiences." Does that sound like a terrible idea to anyone else? It sure sounds like a terrible idea to me, and not only that, but an idea borne out of competitive pressure and existing leverage rather than user needs. Not good, Google. Send to trash. See, email belongs to a special class. Nobody really likes it, but it's the way nobody really likes sidewalks, or electrical outlets, or forks. It not that there's something wrong with them. It's that they're mature, useful items that do exactly what they need to do. They've transcended the world of likes and dislikes. Email too is simple. It's a known quantity in practically every company, household, and device. The implementation has changed over the decades, but the basic idea has remained the same since the very first email systems in the '60s and '70s, certainly since its widespread standardization in the '90s and shift to web platforms in the '00s. The parallels to snail mail are deliberate (it's a payload with an address on it) and simplicity has always been part of its design (interoperability and privacy came later). No company owns it. It works reliably and as intended on every platform, every operating system, every device. That's a rarity today and a hell of a valuable one.

More important are two things: the moat and the motive. The moat is the one between communications and applications. Communications say things, and applications interact with things. There are crossover areas, but something like email is designed and overwhelmingly used to say things, while websites and apps are overwhelmingly designed and used to interact with things. The moat between communication and action is important because it makes it very clear what certain tools are capable of, which in turn lets them be trusted and used properly. We know that all an email can ever do is say something to you (tracking pixels and read receipts notwithstanding). It doesn't download anything on its own, it doesn't run any apps or scripts, attachments are discrete items, unless they're images in the HTML, which is itself optional. Ultimately the whole package is always just going to be a big , static chunk of text sent to you, with the occasional file riding shotgun. Open it a year or ten from now and it's the same email. And that proscription goes both ways. No matter what you try to do with email, you can only ever say something with it -- with another email. If you want to do something, you leave the email behind and do it on the other side of the moat.

AMP For Email Is a Terrible Idea

Comments Filter:
  • Hello Virus! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @08:04AM (#56121181)

    What a great way to spread malicious code!

    • What a great way to spread malicious code!

      Indeed. That's the very first thought that came to my mind. Even if it doesn't act as a gateway to malware, the only people who will end up taking the time to use this is advertising people. You're not going to write a interactive e-mail for your buddy to ask him if he's watching the game tonight.

      • by lgw ( 121541 )

        It's like Google is bound and determined to repeat each of Microsoft's greatest mistakes.

        No, Google, we don't need to new virus vector. We've got plenty, thanks.

      • by Rob Y. ( 110975 )

        The only use I can see for "engaging, interactive, and actionable email experiences" is for Spam advertisements with bells and whistles. It had better be disableable - or bye bye gmail. That's not what email is for, and I'm certainly not going to enable my email client to annoy me more than is absolutely necessary.

    • Likely illegal in Canada too - as is some of the stuff that's done now with Apple/Yahoo/etc. tagging stuff to the bottom of emails

      • Where is apple tagging stuff to the bottom of emails?

        • by cjjjer ( 530715 )
          You know because Apple of course... This is /. what were you thinking... lul
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Didn't worms like I.LOVE.YOU and other malware spread by "smart/active/live" E-mails teach us this same shit back in the early 2000s?

      Google needs to understand that we don't want this shit. We get ads at us every single other way.

      AMP ensures that I will be using a good MTA (Thunderbird, hell even Outlook is housebroken enough to not show Web content) instead of a web browser for my E-mail. Worst case, I always have mutt on a command line.

    • by whitroth ( 9367 )

      Absolutely. Now, I've been online a long time (like, late '91), and back in the high days of usenet, it was a joke on newbies to tell them they could catch a virus by reading an email.

      Until Bill the Gatrs* made if factual.

      And here I thought google's mission statement started with "first, do no wrong".

      I read my email as plain text. I don't catch anything, well, except for little details, like, "why is the IRS sending me email from Brazil?"

      * Like Bill the Cat, coughing up another hairball.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @08:08AM (#56121199)

    Let's see: AMP for GMAIL = bad. HTTPS Everywhere = BAD, Youtube demonitization schemes left up to algorithms = BAD

    Anyone see the pattern? The pattern is that Google thinks it owns the web now.
     

    • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @08:29AM (#56121269)

      Let's see: AMP for GMAIL = bad. HTTPS Everywhere = BAD, Youtube demonitization schemes left up to algorithms = BAD

      Anyone see the pattern? The pattern is that Google thinks it owns the web now.

      Well, you were mostly right.

      The need for pushing HTTPS everywhere was born for a valid reason, so that is a rather shitty example of a "BAD" move.

      • Yes lets take the most rock solid pillar of internet communication and extend it so it only works right in Chrome Broswers.

        What a Microsoft-1990s move. It's the reason everyone hated microsoft for a decade. Embrace and extend.

        But they never had the gall to go this big. Why not embrace and extend TCIP too google? They already are doing DNS so it wouldn't be that hard. Facebook's VPN might give it a whirl too.

        • Nobody under 20 uses it. They use whatever proprietary messaging app their friends use this year. And they are getting older every year.

          Middle aged women use Facebook messenger.

          Email is dead. Get over it.

          • by lobotomy ( 26260 )
            If you apply for a job with me, I will contact you via e-mail (or maybe phone)* — not Snapchat or whatever the cool kids are using this month. Don't have e-mail? I'll hire someone who does. While at work, you WILL check your e-mail. I have had employees who said that the reason they did not respond to my message is that they don't use e-mail. I let them know that if they wished to remain employed, they would start using e-mail.

            You and your 13-year-old friends can use whatever you want, but in the a

          • Nobody under 20 uses it. They use whatever proprietary messaging app their friends use this year. And they are getting older every year.

            Middle aged women use Facebook messenger.

            Email is dead. Get over it.

            Thank you for clarifying why so many 20-year olds are still living in their parents basement. Guess they should stop whining about not being able to find a job and get over it.

    • by e3m4n ( 947977 )

      No wonder they are working so hard on AI, the first job it should be tasked with is taking over the business decisions at Google. Because clearly there is no intelligent life there to be found.

    • Yes, I see a pattern of knee-jerk reactions to technology implementations.

      The ideas are not terrible. It is often the implementation combined with ego preventing such ideas to be better perfected.

      AMP for GMail isn't necessarily bad. However the push to the user nature of email makes it a risky topic to perfect. Normal HTML encoded emails had created a mountain of security problems. Having a robust running web app in your email could make it much harder to keep peoples data safe. Fake email from the DMV

  • Plain text? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If you send me an email in anything other than plain text it's not even going to get downloaded from the mailserver.

    • by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @08:37AM (#56121299)

      If you send me an email in anything other than plain text it's not even going to get downloaded from the mailserver.

      So you didn't get the Amazon gift card for $1000 I sent you?

    • by e3m4n ( 947977 )

      I don't mind the limited markup of having fonts, italic, etc that markup languages provide; but I agree it should not be wide open and non-regulated. The RFCs should have placed restrictions on specific tags to avoid embedded crap. Just have a short list of approved tags and be done with it the same way forums have a basic list of tags.

      • This makes perfect sense and the people out to do good would approve. The people who could care less as long as they make a buck otherwise are going to constantly block ideas like this.

    • Why? Just use a reader that doesn't run code.

  • Security (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gaygirlie ( 1657131 ) <gaygirlie@ h o t m a i l . com> on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @08:20AM (#56121229) Homepage

    What I am more concerned with is how quickly this AMP-thing baked into email will be used for phishing and spreading malware. I mean, email is already used for that, but all of a sudden slapping interactivity on top of it will, without a doubt, make things a whole fucking lot worse. Email is a reasonably simple concept and while there are plenty of people who fall for various kinds of scams, it's at least easy enough that even old people can get along with it. Slapping all the issues that modern, interactive "web-apps" bring on there will confuse the hell out of people and, as anyone with half a brain knows, confusion is easy to exploit.

    Thankfully, I doubt this will actually amount to much; Google has the habit of coming up with about 200 bad ideas every year that they trot out with a marching band and all, but then those ideas die with a whimper a year later.

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @08:25AM (#56121245)

    Dear Consumer,

    It doesn't matter what you want. You'll get what makes us the most profit, and like it.

    Fuck You Very Much, and Have a Nice Day.

    Hugs and Kisses,

    - Your Friendly Neighborhood Free Service Provider

  • Nobody likes it? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eminencja ( 1368047 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @08:28AM (#56121265)

    Saying nobody really likes it is easily proven wrong. I do like it. My employees manage their tasks through their mail boxes. Now reports, alerts and what not can be interactive and accompanied by forms where they can take action. Directly in the e-mail client. And once they are done, they move e-mail to the DONE folder. And they can use tags, search, filters, and what not. And suddenly we no longer need to build this functionality for the intranet.

    The reason why e-mail is so limited is because back in the day Microsoft and others did not know how to make it secure. Time to move on and stop being a Luddite.

    • Yeah, I have to agree. Email is the most important productivity tool of the last three decades.
      • Yeah, but which direction? Nobody gets any rest anymore, and we are drowning in more bureaucracy. We generate much more paperwork than ever. And worse, we lost our secretaries! Now we have to type our own shit! This keyboard crap is so primitive! Thank god for facebook and youtube!

        • I don't know, I have no problem ignoring emails until I'm ready for a context switch. That's what makes email so great......you don't need to answer it immediately, you can wait until you're ready.

          Also youtube.......I don't understand people who'd rather watch a video than read a transcript.
          • by green1 ( 322787 )

            Also youtube.......I don't understand people who'd rather watch a video than read a transcript.

            I'd rather watch a video than read a transcript of the video. But I'd far rather read a well laid out article on the subject than either of those options.

            A transcript has all the limitations of the video format, but without any of the advantages i.e. it must be extremely brief, usually to the point of omitting important details, but at the same time a transcript misses all the visual detail that can add so much to so many things. Meanwhile a well written article can give you more detail in the same amount o

    • The reason why e-mail is so limited is because back in the day Microsoft and others did not know how to make it secure.

      And they still haven't. That is one of the major problems.

      • by green1 ( 322787 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @10:24AM (#56121873)

        They could start by not letting it run ANY code...
        This isn't a hard concept, nobody expects their email to run applications, or connect out to remote servers, or anything like that. The most anyone will ever want from their email is some formatting (bold, italic, colour, font size) that's easy to implement without adding the capability to run full scripting languages and reach out to every remote ad server on the planet.

        The problem isn't that companies don't know how to make it secure, it's that their business model relies on it being insecure. If email clients refused to reach out to remote servers when displaying a message, the companies couldn't track everything you do. If they didn't run scripts the companies would be limited to static ads.

        Of course this is really the biggest problem with almost all innovation right now. The question is no longer "how do we make X better" but instead "how do we make X more profitable" It used to be that people assumed that doing the former would lead to the latter, now there's no attempt to even consider the former. This leads to thousands of non-interoperable walled gardens full of garbage nobody wants that is actively hostile to the users.

    • I guess it should be mentioned that Microsoft has already been trying to take e-mail in this direction with Outlook on Office 360. They have notifications and the ability to add plug-ins.

      I do worry a bit about Google's new platform, though. As many have mentioned, it could be used for nefarious purposes. I'm uneasy about the fact that people can "update" the e-mail they sent you. One thing I like about e-mail is that it can function like a permanent record.

      What really made me raise my eyebrow is the fact th

    • Microsoft always had issues with the internet.
      Setting up a SLIP of PPP Server in windows 3.1 was very difficult. I actually switch to Linux back in the early 1990's so I can use the internet, as it was easier to connect with the dip command.
      Windows 95 Internet was kinda an after thought, they really wanted people to use The Microsoft Network opposed to services like AOL, Prodigy and CompuServe.
      Windows 98 - XP: You can use the internet but on Microsoft terms. Active-X and OS particular plugins were needed fo

    • by nasch ( 598556 )

      Rather than making email into an application, why not use an actual task management application?

  • do no evil (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @08:28AM (#56121267)

    Now we know why they removed the do no evil from their corporate culture.

    Clearly Google is past the point of innovation, they are trying to "fix" something that isnt broken and no one really wants. I have my email server strip all media from emails and keep them in quarantine until i see the need for it and my client NEVER downloads anything from a server that isnt my own.

    Email is for time insensitive communications and has no need for fancy pictures or themes. If you cant get your point across with out graphics then you best schedule a meeting because you will more than likely need to answer alot of questions after your presentation.

    Back to the google, personally i cant wait until they fade in to obscurity like myspace or yahoo. The time is coming, we just need another competitor.

    • Clearly Google is past the point of innovation, they are trying to "fix" something that isnt broken and no one really wants.

      Like "fixing" horse carriages that worked by inventing a car? That's the very definition of innovation vs. simple repairing. Tinker with something even it is not broken. It's either improvement or breaking, but if it's in a new way it's innovation.

    • That and I think they found out, whatever they do, people are going to accuse them of being evil.
      Even early on in Googles history, people accused them because someones opposing idea was higher on the search results then their idea. And claim it is because Google is manipulating results.

  • by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @08:31AM (#56121277)

    While I completely agree that email is good as it is and this is a monstrosity, I'm not so sure I agree there is a "moat" between email and applications.

    Applications send email all the time. Email with links/buttons, which when clicked, interact with the applications. It's pretty cool, actually. So there's all kinds of interaction going on.

    But - it's cool because it works with the limited tool set that email already has.

    So maybe there is a moat - with a wide, comfortable drawbridge, but I agree that doesn't mean that we should drain the moat and fill it in with concrete.

  • by e3m4n ( 947977 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @08:38AM (#56121307)

    > "Nobody really likes it, but it's the way nobody really likes sidewalks, or electrical outlets, or forks"

    perhaps it is because I am old, but I rather like the type of discord that email provides. I abhor new platforms for 'communication' such as twitter-for-twits and facebook, for those who spend more time documenting the fake shit they do than actually doing the stuff they supposedly do. The idea that someone can say something in 250 words or less and believe that its enough to persuade someone is ludicrous and practically justifies slapping their teachers across the face. A persuasive argument requires points and counter points; all packaged and detailed through the body of the single letter. Think of it as opening, or closing, arguments in a trial. Would you want your attorney standing up during closing arguments, addressing the jury and just say "find my client innocent or you suck. #freemyclient #emojisarecool!" Yet this is were social media has led an entire generation of millennials who literally now graduate public schools not knowing how to write in cursive, write a check, or properly fill out an envelope and apply postage.

        Didn't google make a claim about 10yrs ago that they were revolutionizing email with an entirely new product?? I believe they called it 'Wave'. How did that turn out for them? It appears that, at least for that project, the mayan calendar did, in fact, cause the end of its civilization (ie they pulled the plug on it at the end of 2012)

    • I completely agree. E-mail allows the art of letter writing to proliferate despite the fact that nobody uses the USPS to write letters anymore.

      As for Wave, it served a niche as a collaborative project tool, and it was great. I used it and it's really unfortunate that Apache was never able to put it back together (I don't really understand why, Google gave it to them fully functional). I think the big problem with Wave is that it only served such a small niche, and it didn't have the potential to pillage and

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The idea that someone can say something in 250 words or less and believe that its enough to persuade someone is ludicrous and practically justifies slapping their teachers across the face.

      Word count or your post (minus the initial quote): 236 /slap

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why does that site even exist?

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @08:56AM (#56121383)

    No company owns it. It works reliably and as intended on every platform, every operating system, every device. That's a rarity today and a hell of a valuable one.

    This USED to be true, BUT people and businesses are OVERWHELMINGLY moving their E-mail service to Office365 AND Google Apps.

    I'll say it again THIS IS A TRAP. Over 60% of mailboxes may very well already be on these services..... As this number approaches 70%, 80%, 90%..... STANDARDIZATION WILL BEGIN TO UNRAVEL. The trend is that E-mail is going to become a Microsoft and Google technology, BECAUSE everybody is moving to the cloud, and as it stands now; MS and Google have a Duopoly in this industry.

    • If a business cannot use it to communicate with businesses or their customers then Office356 or GMail will be dropped instantly ....

      MS Exchange/Outlook is massively propitiatory but did not have issues delivering emails to/from anyone not using it

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        If a business cannot use it to communicate with businesses or their customers then Office356 or GMail will be dropped instantly ....

        First of all... NO, and Hell No --- no business of significant size "Instantly" drops or replaces an E-mail provider; They will be GRADUALLY dropped and replaced with Only the other Alternate choice, because the "myriad" of competitors barely limping along these days don't really have even a chance, there's no high-paid cloud consultants that will be recommending them

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "engaging, interactive, and actionable email experiences."

    WTF does that even mean.
    I have to read an email, so I'm already engaging with it.
    I have to reply to emails, so they're already actionable, and so interactive to an extent.

    People like this twunt are the reason we have a 'Wanker Jar' in the meeting room at work.
    It's like a swear jar, but for PR wankers. And it's surprisingly effective at training them to converse in a concise,meaningful way instead of spouting vague terms.

  • Great write up BeauHD (if I understand Slashdot's author reference). There is exactly nothing wrong with email, it's one of the most useful and reliable things in the tech world. Junkmail is annoying, so sadly companies have to spend a lot dealing with it, but other than that I wouldn't touch it.

    Google making it interactive is a step in the wrong direction. They know just how critical email is and just want a way to turn it into the next mini-Facebook. No way, no how.

    I can't see any organization accepting t

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The good news is we can safely ignore them, as they cannot coerce and punish people to follow their wishes by threatening with a lower rank on their search engine.

  • To me, that looks like the mother of all exploit vectors.
  • I switched my iPhone from using Google to DuckDuckGo for web searches because of AMP. So f*****g announced and intrusive. Now they have the arrogance to mess with email? Oh well I donâ(TM)t use gmail anyway because I already find the Google way with email so annoying. I guess enough people just go along with that this crap continues.

  • Seriously. In the past, people were happy about new features, excited even, asking when they're going to come and how they can use them, with boards and media being abuzz with the previews and reviews and the how-tos and whatnot.

    Today, the first question everyone asks when a new feature gets announced is "How do I turn it off?"

    • by green1 ( 322787 )

      New features used to mean new functionality that made people happy. New features now usually mean reduced functionality that makes the company more money.

      There's a reason people aren't wishing for new features any more.

  • Seems like I was right to open up a few ProtonMail accounts sometime ago, I knew Google stupidity for trendy crap and messing with stuff that shouldn't be messed with would eventually catch their more traditional services and platforms...
    Well, perhaps they are sane enough to make it an opt-in feature, depending on the real intentions behind the move.
    To me, it's pretty simple: the more you enable "advanced features" in a given service or platform, the more potential it has to be exploited for all the bad rea

  • by Koreantoast ( 527520 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @11:35AM (#56122401)

    No company owns it [email].

    That's the "problem" Google is fixing.

  • You cannot.
    Like FTP is something buried deep into the story of internet.
    You should not.
    It works. If it works, you ain't fix it.
    You can modernize SMTP , though.
    For example, if the client is online during the delivery attempt you can/should deliver straight to it.
    If not, to the mailbox.

    • > You can modernize SMTP , though.
      > For example, if the client is online during the delivery attempt
      > you can/should deliver straight to it. If not, to the mailbox.

      The logistics for that are impossible for POP email. How would you query the client? And no, I do *NOT* want an "email client" constantly listening to the internet and telling advertisers everything about me. Besides, my desktop is behind a NATing router/modem. I think I know now why the corporate powers behind IPV6 are so vehemently op

  • "engaging, interactive, and actionable email experiences."

    All of those words have to do with marketing. What user really wants their spam to be more "engaging, interactive, and actionable"? "Actionable" especially. That is Google-speak for "the user can initiate a purchase directly from the page". This change has absolutely nothing to do with providing a feature to users.

    (actually, an ex did once say in response to a stated wish for ads to be illegal with the question "but how would we know what to buy?", but that's one reason why she's an ex.)

Premature optimization is the root of all evil. -- D.E. Knuth

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