The Future of Email Coding Standards Is Stratified
Will we ever have email coding standards? This is a tricky question and my views on the matter have definitely evolved over the years along with the evolution of the email client and device landscape. Let me start by saying I now think there will never be a single email coding standard.
However, that doesn’t mean that we’re doomed to our current highly fragmented existence. In the future, there will likely be a patchwork of common and independent rendering engines. The future of email will still be fragmented, but there will be significant areas of consolidation.
Mark Robbins of Rebelmail is right that we need a standard rendering engine, otherwise we’ll be fighting the same fight for standardization every time a major email client releases a new version. Thankfully ISPs have financial and logistical reasons to want to standardize around rendering engines as well.
This is most likely to occur first within the webmail environment, where market share is declining. This will put financial pressure on ISPs, and standardizing on a common rendering engine will be seen as a sensible solution for many ISPs.
The mobile environment, which is still growing nicely, won’t be subject to such pressures, so multiple rendering engines will continue to exist there. That said, the companies that rule most of mobile—namely, Apple and Google—will likely eventually consolidate their own mobile operations around single rendering engines to streamline development efforts. It’s just bad business for Google, for instance, to operate some many different email rendering engines. But the key word here is “eventually.”
And then there’s wearables and the internet of things. This is where things will only get messier and messier. Watches, e-readers, electronic paper, and other devices will dumb email down to plain text (perhaps HTML text at some point, if we’re lucky). Ear fobs, automobiles, etc. will read emails to us, and our replies and actions will be verbalized.
Oh, and the desktop environment (aka Microsoft Outlook) will also continue to be a mess, but it will continue to lose market share to cloud-based solutions, chiefly Google’s Gmail. And eventually—perhaps five years from now—on-premise email will be isolated to markets that only a small percentage of marketers will need to concern themselves with.
So basically, the future of email rendering is stratified, with the rending layers varying from standardized (i.e., webmail) to consolidated (i.e., mobile app mail) to, let’s say, untamed (i.e., wearables, Iot, desktop). On net, this should make the job of email designers and developers a bit easier, but only a bit.