Update, 8/1/14: According to the recently passed CASL, purchased lists are illegal in Canada. While they’re still technically legal in the US, they’re at odds with MailChimp’s acceptable use policy. Which means if you use them, we will shut down your account.
As a permission-based email service provider, MailChimp doesn’t allow our users to send to purchased, rented, scraped, or stolen lists of email addresses. Why? Well, much like Lloyd Dobler, we don’t want to process anything sold or bought. It’s annoying to the humans on the other end of those purchased lists who haven’t asked to be part of your marketing.
But here’s another reason to stay away from purchased lists: They’re as good as dead. When you send to one, it’s crickets out there.
Let’s go to the historical training data from Omnivore, MailChimp’s anti-abuse system.
If we look at campaign performance versus the percentage of a mailing list that’s purchased or scraped, we find that positive engagement falls off a cliff as purchased correlation increases. Since most folks have to open an email to unsubscribe, unsubscribes die off too. The only thing that does go up? Complaints.
Stick that in your boombox and blast it. (No offense, Peter Gabriel.)
Founded by Dropbox and MIT alums, a new startup called Inbox is launching out of stealth today, hoping to power the next generation of email applications. Similar to the newly launched Gmail API, Inbox offers a more modern way to build apps that access end users’ inboxes. But instead of being limited to Gmail, it also works with Yahoo, Microsoft Exchange and others, the company says.
In addition, jabs the company’s website, “Inbox is an email company. Google is an advertising company. This product is our focus, and will not be ‘discontinued’ unexpectedly.”Burn!
Google made waves with the announcement of a new “Gmail API” at its Google I/O developer conference earlier this month, which offers developers who build email applications new tools to access messages, threads, labels and other parts of the Gmail inbox without requiring full inbox access. The idea is to reduce the reliance on older protocols, like IMAP, when apps don’t have to work as an email client, but are rather focusing on a specific feature set – like snoozing messages, or only sending emails on behalf of an end user, for example.
Similarly, the idea with Inbox is to offer an upgrade of sorts from the “archaic protocols and formats” that developers would otherwise have to learn today in order to work with email. However, it supports a wider range of developers, from those who only need a simple feature to those who want to build full-fledged email clients for end users.
The company was co-founded by MIT alums Michael Grinich, previously an engineer at Dropbox and designer Nest, and Christine Spang, an early Linux kernel engineer at Ksplice (acquired by Oracle). The core team at Inbox also includes several other MIT alums, plus those with experience from Google and Firebase, as well as two graduates from the Parallel and Distributed Operating Systems group at MIT CSAIL, which spun out Meraki (acquired by Cisco).
“I actually wrote my thesis at MIT on email tools, and discovered how difficult it was to add features to email apps,” explains Grinich of how Inbox came to be. “One big issue was the underlying plumbing – IMAP, MIME, character encodings, etc. – which is what Inbox fixes for developers.”
But the larger goal with Inbox is not just to offer a suite of developer tools, but to create a new email standard. That means, Grinich says, the company has to provide the fundamental infrastructure as an open source package.
“The sync engine is available for free on GitHub, and we welcome discussion and pull requests,” he says. Currently the open source sync engine works with Gmail and Yahoo mail, with plans to expand soon to all IMAP providers. Meanwhile, enterprise users on Microsoft Exchange can request access to the Inbox Developer program, which supports ActiveSync, and is now in private beta.
Today, developers can download the Inbox engine, sync an account, and begin building on top of the platform in a local development environment. In the future, however, the company will release a hosted version of Inbox that will allow developers to create applications without needing to also scale their own infrastructures.
San Francisco-based Inbox is backed by Fuel Capital, SV Angel, CrunchFund (disclosure: TechCrunch’s founder also founded CrunchFund), Data Collective, Betaworks, and others, but funding details are not disclosed.