In the words of Newton’s Third Law, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Apparently, even the likes of Google isn’t exempt from such an imperative with their change in image caching for Gmail we recently wrote about. Turns out, there are more implications than initially anticipated to the world’s most popular email service.

While we foresaw brands could no longer cookie users on open, track IP address/geolocation on open, or have a total gross open metric for Gmail addresses, we didn’t expect that image rendering would be so negatively affected when handled by Google.

What’s going wrong?

1) Many brands are experiencing the following within email communications to consumers:

• Images not loading upon open

• Images only loading with a manual refresh

Since Gmail is moving the images from their original link source to Google’s proxy image hosting, it appears as if the images aren’t hosted where Google is looking for them, or hosting this infinitely large number of images has exhausted even Google’s hosting power, resulting in images to load slowly or incorrectly. Microsoft Outlook has also adopted proxy image hosting, and is experiencing similar problems.

It’s important to note that we don’t know for certain what is and isn’t working properly on Google’s end. We can only guess based on the end result of “X” image placeholders and what we know about proxy image hosting.

2) More interesting is what many brands using Google’s advertising property, DoubleClick, are seeing:

• DoubleClick ad images are rendering, but the clickthrough link breaks and directs to a blank page or 404

DoubleClick relies on the image loading process to know where each link should point to and direct the click to the correct URL. Most likely, proxy image hosting is interrupting this clickthrough mechanism.

How do we fix it?

Unfortunately, since the root cause of error stems from hosting problems with Google, DoubleClick and Outlook, there aren’t any sufficient workarounds available to marketers yet. We’re confident Google will fix what ever is causing the malfunctions to maintain quality user experiences, but in the meantime we’ll have to sit back and click refresh.

We’ll continue to keep you updated on the latest of how proxy image hosting is influencing your digital marketing, and share any strategies that can mitigate the potential impact to your campaigns.

For Sailthru clients, please reach out directly to your Account Manager to discuss any concerns.


Kristine Lowery is a digital marketer (and all-around Internet and technology junkie) running content and social media at Sailthru. She can be reached at