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Google Announces BIMI Pilot Program

In late July, Google announced a set of new features for their Gmail and G Suite products including enhancements to chat, virtual meetings, and admin controls. But the announcement that got the most press was Gmail’s pilot program for a project known as Brand Indicators for Message Identification, or BIMI. Google’s pilot program is a limited, invite-only test, but it signals Gmail is joining the work toward adopting the BIMI standard.

BIMI (pronounced bih-mee) is an email specification that provides bulk senders with a new way to brand their email messages — with a sender-provided logo that appears in the inbox and/or message view in the recipient’s email client. The logo is designed to make it easier for recipients to identify mail from a “trusted” sender.

To further highlight these trusted senders, BIMI requires mail to be properly authenticated including SPF, DKIM, and DMARC (set to ‘’quarantine’ or ‘reject’). Other requirements include publishing a BIMI-specific DNS record, a logo image in SVG format, and in some cases being certified by an independent certificate issuer.

There’s a chance you’ve already seen BIMI in action — Verizon Media has been testing the standard with their brands (including Yahoo and AOL):

Verizon Media’s version of BIMI on display in Yahoo webmail

Currently (prior to implementing BIMI), Gmail displays an avatar in the upper left of the message view for senders in your address book. This image is pulled from the Google account of the sender (previously, the Google+ profile image for the sender was used).

Gmail’s current avatar display

The goal of BIMI is to refine a process that currently exists in piecemeal (displaying a logo in the recipient’s mailbox) into a formal standard. This would allow senders to store their approved logo in a centralized location and complete a single process to have the image displayed at all providers that support BIMI. This provides additional consistent and easily updated branding for all mail sent from the brand’s domain.

BIMI also incentivizes the use of DMARC, which should reduce the amount of unauthenticated mail sent on behalf of major brands. By encouraging well-known brands to use BIMI (and DMARC by extension), recipients should be able to quickly spot mail from the organizations they know and trust.

While BIMI still has a long way to go before being universally adopted, Gmail’s announcement is a big step in the right direction. With two of the three major mailbox providers on board, it’s much more likely BIMI will become a formal industry standard. If your organization is interested in BIMI, now is the time to start reviewing your DMARC configuration — or to start implementing DMARC if you haven’t yet. Setting up DMARC and/or BIMI will take some time and resources from your organization, and you don’t want to be just starting out while other brands are already taking advantage of BIMI’s benefits.

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