There are old hands reading this who remember when television was entirely black and white. Monochrome television first appeared well before World War Two but few considered buying a TV set then because radios were in the middle of their Golden Age at the time with incredibly popular programming such as the Green Hornet, the Lone Ranger and Fibber McGee & Molly. It is true, however, that black and white TV was successfully debuted in the USA in 1927 (see news clipping below) and FDR was televised making a speech at the World’s Fair of 1939. The Germans, Soviets, British and French had all been in a TV “arms race” involving espionage and sabotage…the bombing of Pearl Harbor was actually televised by CBS…Hitler televised from the Eiffel Tower during World War Two after he captured Paris.
The thing was, only “early adopters” had TV sets during this time, which would be similar to the 1980s for personal computers. You can read more about this on a great site called TVHistory.TV
This situation changed drastically after World War Two ended. Americans had spent the war going to the local cinema to see news reels of the troops in action. They now wanted that visual experience in their homes. In 1946, televisions were already a staple in bars and clubs, where major boxing championships played out to hundreds of thousands. In 1947, Kraft Television Theater, Meet the Press and The Howdy Doody Show became major black and white hits.
CBS tried to go straight into manufacturing color TVs in the late 1940s but their attempt didn’t jive with the fact that their proprietary technology did not work with the 10 million black and white sets already in use by Americans by 1949. RCA had a huge Trinitron color TV on the market in the late 40s (it had 3 cathode ray tubes representing the primary colors) but it was only for eccentric millionaires to gawk at and there was still little in terms of color programming. It wasn’t until after the Korean War subsided in 1953 that a standard was approved that would allow programming to work with both new color sets and existing black and white TVs.
In 1954, the first “mass market” color TVs from RCA cost what would be the equivalent of buying a car today. Few people bought them, even when they could afford it as there was still very little programming for them. David Sarnoff, the Russian immigrant chairman of RCA, remained in the hot seat with his board of directors until 1964 as all other companies that tried to manufacture and market color TVs gave up.
Dragnet, the famous TV show about LA detectives, was the first to broadcast a color film episode in December 1953. Nobody noticed because the new RCA sets weren’t yet on the market. In June 1955, President Eisenhower was filmed on a color TV broadcast. Rich people noticed that. But it wasn’t until RCA color TV prices fell and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color premiered in 1961 that the masses started to go out and buy color technology. In 1962, the popularity of the “colorcasted” Flintstones and Jetsons guaranteed that color TV was here to stay. By 1966, the NBC peacock was announcing that 100% of NBC programming would be in color. Sarnoff, the father and champion of color TV, would die 5 years later at the age of 80.
Let’s fast forward to 2009. Black and white email inboxes have been the standard since most of us started reading email in inboxes 20 years ago (thanks to Compuserve).
But it doesn’t have to stay that way and, if the above history teaches anything, it won’t.
Viktor Tatarov, CEO of the WebCEO company that helps webmasters tweek and monitor the hits they receive on websites, has developed a means by which color corporate icons appear in the inbox of major email programs whenever an SPF or DomainKey authenticated email arrives from that company’s domain(s).
These colorful “anti-phishing” icons, often the favicons that appear in the URL toolbar of web browsers, now appear in the email inbox list panel of users of the SenderOK Email Plug-in, which is downloadable at SenderOK.com. This now works in Microsoft Outlook as well as the webmail programs Hotmail/Live, Gmail and Yahoo. Only reputable companies, not spammers, will be allowed to have their emails appear with their corporate icons.
This will be a bolt from the blue for email marketers pursuing the Holy Grail called “Email Deliverability”. With SenderOK icon presentation, spam email will be separated from serious business email literally as black and white is to color. Email that comes from known reputable senders will be saved from the spambox, at least long enough for users to decide whether to unsubscribe or verify that they personally consider that otherwise reputable sender to be issuing spam. SenderOK can also act like a Nielsen rating box, letting senders know about the anonymous behavior of users in terms of how many users opened their email and how many deleted without reading.
Google has just announced that they will be doing something similar with Gmail Anti-Phishing Keys and their new newsletter unsubscribe service, but they are still thinking in terms of black and white…for now.
Take a look at the future which is here and now. Whether Tatarov and SenderOK will get all the credit or whether Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL will develop and implement similar technology on their own, doesn’t change the fact that the email inbox, like television, will after a 20 year delay, finally move from black and white to color.