Ask Laura: Why is my video email blocked?


Dear Laura,
We have a real estate client who has asked us to include short video previews of houses in their weekly newsletters to prospective buyers. The videos are great — informative, well-produced, and they definitely meet your definition of wanted email, as subscribers have been asking for this content for a long time.
Unfortunately, we are learning that many email service providers simply won’t deliver email with video assets. What gives? How is it any different from including HTML or images?
Perplexedly yours,
Got the Video Blues

Dear Blues,
People sometimes treat email like it’s simply a web page delivered to an inbox, and therefore anything we can do on the web should be possible in email.
But this simply isn’t true. They are separate technologies that have evolved in parallel over the past few decades, and they are governed by different standards and practices. In fact, there are no real IETF standard for video in email… yet. There is a MIME type (mpeg) but there’s nothing about how a video should be embedded or played or included in the message. Will there be? Who knows?
Everyone who is using video in email today, particularly autoplaying video, is essentially running an experiment to see if something (embedded code, javascript, etc.) might work. And some email service providers might let some of that code through. But many won’t. The concerns about malicious code are simply too great. No one wants to put millions of email recipients at risk so your realtors can show their houses in email instead of including a link to that video on the web.
So you can try it, if you’d like. But when it doesn’t work, and you ask your tech people why your email isn’t going through, they’re not going to be able to explain it. It’s not simply “formatted wrong”, because there’s no right way to format video in email. So unlike HTML or a JPG, we can’t just fix it. And we don’t expect to see a standard for this anytime soon. That said, we are starting to get these questions more frequently, and will definitely research more about the use of video in email.
Stay tuned,

Confused about delivery in general? Trying to keep up on changing policies and terminology? Need some Email 101 basics? This is the place to ask. We can’t answer specific questions about your server configuration or look at your message structure for the column (please get in touch if you’d like our help with more technical or forensic investigations!), but we’d love to answer your questions about how email works, trends in the industry, or the joys and challenges of cohabiting with felines.
Your pal,


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