The internet is always in a state of perpetual flux, embedding itself further into our daily lives and molding the nature of the very content it presents. From laptops to smartphones to tablets, the internet—an abstract concept more than a tangible tool— has always been directed for use on a browser. But the advent of in-app browsers, which allow you to surf the web within an app rather than being sent to Safari or Chrome, has created a kind of bizarre feedback loop. Where is that article you were just reading? Is it in your Twitter internet browser or your Gmail’s?
Bizarre as it may be, the future of the internet may actually be found in, of all places, email. Google has announced a new software initiative called AMP for Email. AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages, and the new framework would allow for an enhanced Gmail experience, allowing you to interact with the web just as you would through an internet browser, but all through the embedded content of an email message. For instance, instead of Pinterest requiring a separate tab or browser launch in order for you to use the site’s features, the AMP-infused Pinterest email serves as a tab in an of item, letting you pin, save pages, browse boards, and much more, all while never once having to leave the email itself.
Chances are that most of you have already been using AMP without even realizing it. Google typically caches many publisher websites in an effort to make sure everything loads faster on their software (caching essentially means saving as a kind of offline file; if Google is doing its job right, you should never notice).
In order for AMP for Email to spread to the degree that Google is hoping it will, it is enabling email developers to incorporate the AMP standard as it sees fit. As of right now, Gmail is the only email client supporting the spec tech, but it is an open code that can be applied to other email by their given developer teams, for free. In many ways, this is a seemingly bizarre step backward for an industry always looking forward. Email has been a major tenant of early computing, with limited use first appearing in the mid-1960s and taking its more recognizable form as early as the late 1970s. Conversely, its resilience also makes it the last place you would consider to be the grounds for the future of the Internet.
Implementing Email Browsers
Yet, as every other ligament of the digital world feels volatile and relatively unsteady, email use has continued to increase year on year. The popularity of newsletters has been a savior for advertisers hoping for a more direct way to connect with customers: publications have found a way to synthesize the sheer amount of content needed to stay afloat in the modern world, and creatives have found that peer-to-peer communication remains most effective when it’s as intimate as an inbox.
Most apps aim to keep users inside its glowing coded walls as a way of sustaining overall engagement. While smartphones were once designed to house a single app for every imaginable purpose, the modern app intends to replace your default browser by keeping you surfing inside Facebook, for example, using the app’s pop-up browser instead. The sense that certain content belongs in certain places has all but disappeared. Whether AMP will be the answer to this problem is unclear, but it is certainly a start. Turning your email into a functional web browser will help collapse the gap between information and our fingertips, with AMP both catching up late to the party and potentially helping remake the wheel.