2012 Unpredictions: The Reckoning

I made four unpredictions for last year – things I didn’t think would happen. I always feel compelled to look back and evaluate my foresight, which in some years has been pretty good. This was one of them:

1. ISPs will not block messages to all users based on lack of engagement, but engagement will matter more than ever.

The reckoning: I hedged this one a bit, but no question it came true. Engagement does matter more than ever in the deliverability equation, and its impact is only growing. Last year we diagnosed more engagement-based issues than ever before, but even with a slight dip in worldwide inbox placement rates, 2012 was decidedly not the year that mail stopped reaching users because of behavioral trends.

2. Domain reputation will not be implemented in 2012, but planning for it will happen in earnest.

The reckoning: Spot on. True. Look at the way DMARC is focusing attention on domain-level reporting. We don’t yet have widely implemented solutions leveraging domain-based sending data, but finally the capability exists to monitor traffic originating from – and potentially work with registries to disable – specific domains.

3. Mobile will not be the dominant platform for reading email, but it will continue to steal share.

The reckoning: True. Mobile opens stole so much share that I almost missed this one. Late in 2012 mobile became the top source of email opens, ahead of webmail and desktop clients. Email is increasingly a smartphone experience for many consumers, and today roughly 40% of email is opened on a mobile device. I’ve got a hunch about what next year holds for mobile email, but you’ll have to wait for that one.

4. Social networks will not become the dominant messaging platform, but they will drive email use.

The reckoning: True. By a mile. We are indeed seeing more messages generated by social networks, but absolutely not an avalanche of volume. On the other hand, email volume from virtually all sources surged again in 2012 – so much that ISPs are starting to take real, impactful steps to control the increases that show no sign of slowing. This is no indication that social media communication is plateauing, either, but as I said last year, its dominance is a long way off and by no means assured.

Next week I'll look forward and share some of my expectations for the email ecosystem's evolution in 2013.