Good news from Hotmail: The world’s oldest freemailer service does not only turn 16 years old in two days. It also may have turned on images and links by default, now. That is for email senders with good reputation scores, as it seems. The phenomenon has been reported on emailmarketersclub.com before. Remains to be seen, if it will be persistent and rolled out globally.
Image suppression, link blocking
In the past, Hotmail deactivated links and – like many email clients – replaced images in emails from unknown senders with placeholders for safety reasons. In case of Hotmail, the placeholders were just gray blank boxes, alt-text was not displayed. The user had to turn on images and links manually. That’s something which impacted response rates negatively.
Just to remind you, here is what the link warning message and image suppression typically look like in (German) Hotmail:
With images on by default, now, subscribers can immediately see the email creative in its full design. This stimulated response rates. In addition, (image-based) opens will be tracked directly after viewing the email; more opens will be counted. Formerly, they were recorded only after images have been loaded manually. So if you saw a sharp increase in open rates lately, this could be due to Hotmail turning off image suppression. It doesn’t necessarily have to result from more relevancy or seasonal effects.
By the way, this may also show up in market share benchmark statistics like emailclientmarketshare.com. When reading such numbers, you got to be aware of the fact that e.g. the iPhone (and now partly Hotmail for high reputation senders) display(s) images by default and therefore technically track more opens than Android or Gmail.
Hotmail in the news
Hotmail is going through changes. A few weeks ago, screenshots of a new Metro-style user interface have allegedly been leaked. Further more, some things went wrong. Due to a technical glitch, Hotmail converted several unicode characters to graphical symbols in subject lines (see figure below) and within the email body. And it still does so. This breaks some email layouts and therefore annoys email designers. Last but not least, Gmail may have taken the pole position with reportedly 425 million monthly users – compared to 350 million in January. Hotmail had the lead for many years (… and Hotmail still has it according to comScore, who claim Hotmail has 325 million unique visitors, Yahoo! Mail 298 million, and Gmail 289 – see figure, above right)