Gmail is adding functionality to email that will help catch it up to the 21st century
We’ve spoke about it before; the difference between IMAP and POP email protocols, and as of June 24th, 2014, Google is revolutionizing the way that we communicate via email. The technology that we use in email now (IMAP), was initially created in 1986, and while we’ve been able to do quite a lot of cool things with the technology, all of these innovations were never meant to be handled through this protocol. Google has now created what is called an API to interface with your Gmail… You’re probably beginning to wonder what all this means for you, or what an API even is; so let me explain further.
In case you’d like just a quick definition, API stands for “Application Programming Interface”, which is really just a fancy word for a language and message format that allows for two applications to communicate with one another. For a more in depth look, check out the drop downs below.
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API: (Application Programming Interface) A language and message format used by an application program to communicate with the operating system or some other control program such as a database management system (DBMS) or communications protocol. APIs are implemented by writing function calls in the program, which provide the linkage to the required subroutine for execution. Thus, an API implies that a driver or program module is available in the computer to perform the operation or that software must be linked into the existing program to perform the tasks.
For a more in depth definition (includes more technical jargon) see the Wikipedia definition
This can still seem a little confusing, check out the Twitter example in the drop down below.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Twitter API Example” icon=”icon-twitter-sign” title_tag=”h5″][vc_column_text]
If you were to jump on your smartphone right now, and you happen to be a twitter user, chances are you are going to open the mobile application, rather than going to your web browser and visiting twitter, right? It’s much easier to view in this format and this is thanks to developers taking the time to create such an application. These developers may want to get certain information that you would find useful from Twitter’s database of tweets, users, who you follow or who is following you. Perhaps you would like to visit a profile, see their last 10 tweets, get their name, and read the short snippet of text on their profile. Well in order for this to be accomplished, an API must be used.
The API allows for the developer (the person making your Twitter App) to have their application talk with the database that stores all of Twitter’s information. They are essentially asking “Hey, who is this person, what have they posted lately, and who are they following?” The database then sends back all the information you are looking for to the application, and more importantly to your screen when you click on a user’s profile, which allows you to have special features, or a better user experience. Pretty neat, right? So how does an API for email revolutionize anything or give you, the end user, a better experience?[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][/vc_accordion]
Gmail’s API — What’s it all about?
With the introduction of this API, developers can now add features and customization to your email without having to create an entire mail client (which is extremely complex). Some common mail clients that you would be familiar with include: Gmail, Lycos Mail, Outlook.com, and Yahoo! Mail. Notice how these are some pretty big names — now imagine the cost to commission a project to create the next Gmail – Sounds pretty expensive right? That’s because it was, and hence why email has been stuck in the 90’s for so long. It never made sense for a company to essentially build a new mail client just to add features to their email, it was just too expensive. This is all about to change. Developers can now add customization through you’re already existing Gmail service, making the possibilities seem endless.
Application Potential with Gmail
So this is probably starting to make more sense to you now, but you’re also probably wondering, “What kind of applications do I want or need from my email that I’ve never had before?” Let’s give you some quick and basic examples:
- Let’s say you want to know what your sales team is doing. You can create a program to monitor how many emails they send out on average to land a client. Or maybe you just want to know what your outbound emails a day look like. This can be easily accomplished with the help of an API.
- Create Monitoring Applications for Management
- Allow management to receive text messages if their team doesn’t respond to an email fast enough, ensuring that you give great customer service.
- Auto Responses
- Create applications that gather your tracking emails from FedEx, USPS, etc., and have all of the information collected and displayed in a widget or dashboard that will give you the information you need at a glance, rather than clicking each tracking email and entering in your tracking codes to get a status update.
As developers get their hands on this API for Gmail, it is hard to even imagine what apps they will develop in the future. Just think back to a time before there was an app for anything you could fathom. Soon enough, I imagine this being the case for email as well.
Gmail is currently in their beta (testing phase) with their API as of June 24th. The biggest take away for end users and businesses alike is that not only are these customizations possible, but they have become cost effective. I like to think of it as a similar scenario as WordPress websites. If you’ve ever used one or have one currently, you know that WordPress allowed for organization’s to create a beautiful website for a fraction of the cost compared to designing one from scratch. In the case of websites, WordPress allowed developers to reduce design costs by thousands.
With Gmail’s API allowing developers to skip creating a mail client, the actual time to create a custom app for your email has been incredibly reduced, giving you the ability to leverage email in new and creative ways.
If you’ve had an idea for an app that you would like for your company’s email, or maybe you’re interested in learning about more possibilities that you could use, reach out to Fuse today, and speak with one of our developers to see what the creation of your app would entail.
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