The day Google broke email: Gmail image caching not showing images

gmail_logoGoogle rolled out Gmail image caching back in early December last year. Now, 6 weeks later, more and more reports are coming from users that images are broken in Gmail. The behaviour is very irratic: at one moment an email opens with all images not loading, but later on a second open shows the images just fine.

Gmail image caching: concerns and effects

This is one of the things I was concerned about when Google announced Gmail image caching in december. One of the other things is dynamic email content. With timers, localization effects and supply status, you could show live email content. But Gmail image caching means every image url is cached on the domain and never refreshed. In case you want to show how many items are left of something with an auto-refreshing image, you’re out of luck with Gmail: no can do!
Also, many email service providers use a so-called measuring pixel, which is an invisble (but still existing) image sent with every single email to measure an open and check which email client someone is using. However, because of the Gmail image caching, multiple opens cannot be shown anymore. Also, some ESPs have trouble showing the actual email client used, as actual open is done by Google’s server farm in Mountain View, California USA, and not a person’s actual email client.
In any case, images were still working, and fast enough as well. That is, until now. It started a few days ago, but as of today, many people are noticing irratic image loading (part of an email) or not at all:

Gmail client: no image for you.

So much for the title ‘images now showing’ – the blog post on the official Gmail blog announcing image caching back on December 12th. I guess images not showing now.
The people over at Movable Ink had also posted about the issue of images not showing in Gmail, but have removed it later. They noted in their post that subsequent email opens load more images, but that is not good enough. Images should be shown all the time.
If the Google servers are not up to the task of caching and showing all images involved in email traffic, then the Gmail caching system should be turned off completely. After all, we all want the best experience for the end user, right?

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