In 2010, I met Aamir Atta, founder of ProPakistani, who I think greatly helped me shape my mindset at that time. I was introduced to him by my friend Zeeshan Shafquat Malik aka ZSM, who was editor in chief for ProPakistani at that time.
When I met Aamir bhai, I realized that a large influence of ProPakistani at that time came through his email newsletters. I was already sending out daily RSS newsletter using feedburner, just like the one I send today. But Aamir bhai used to send a custom designed newsletter. Each issue of his newsletter was manually designed and had the most popular and engaging posts pertaining to that period.
To get this kind of flexibility, with no additional cost, it meant that he had to setup his own mailing server. I don’t know if there were other better ways to do this back then with no additional cost. But even if there were, I’m assuming neither me nor Aamir bhai knew about it or couldn’t afford it.
When I came home from the meeting, the first thing I did was setup my own mailing server and so I installed PHPMailer.
It took me some experiments to learn to use it but shortly I was sending out my own customized newsletters too.
I love internet. I have always loved it and I’ve always thought of it as a friend of a common man. It is an equalizer for sure. It makes the boundaries thinner, reduces some of those “visa restrictions” we have to participate in a global world. But internet is still far from perfect. And that’s okay. But I feel it’s also not moving in the right direction. And that isn’t okay.
Internet was meant to be decentralized. It put the power in everyone’s hands. Until we started to see a few corporations taking more and more control making it centralized again.
As a marketer, I was always told by other better marketers that email lock-in with your customer is everything. I was told that Facebook will lure you into buying likes and then change algorithms. Twitter will do the same and Google will mess with your SERPs too. But email is forever. You reach out to your users on 1-1 basis with nothing between you and your users.
Unfortunately, with Gmail powering roughly 50% of all email addresses in the world, that is changing too. Emails are now controlled the same way Facebook controls your pages, and Google controls your SERPs.
Think of it like this; email address is no different than your physical address. Imagine if the post office decided for you which mail should reach you, and which should they keep. It’s messed up, isn’t it? I think it is. And I’m against centralized control like that, especially on lower level protocols.
Other email providers are also categorizing emails, snoozing notifications and reducing readership in the similar manner as Google.
From the user’s point of view, may be it helps reduce the noise. But as a business owner, the inability to communicate 1-1 with the customers, who opt in for this communication, is not just unfortunate, its unethical on Google’s part.