Gmail rolls back changes that strip CSS with background images.

After a week of angst as Google appeared to be rolling out changes in some Gmail accounts that strip CSS with background images it appears Google has acknowledged the issue and is rolling the change back.

Update Aug 6: 10 days after the promised fix, The rollback is finally complete!

This must be a huge relief for email developers who are dreading the many wasted hours combing through templates to address this issue.


Sometime last week, many email developers started noticing that emails in Gmail webmail started looking weird and it turned out that for a subset of Gmail accounts, if the email contained inline CSS or embedded CSS (<style>) with background-image urls, the entire inline or embedded CSS block would be stripped. So not only would the background disappear, the other CSS styles would be lost too.

Mark Robbins posted a bug report on the Google Issue Tracker that garnered over 300 votes.

The Issue was initially closed by Google as they suggested users file the bug within the Gmail app itself.

Thankfully after a few days, either through the internally filed bugs or through the sheer number of votes, Google acknowledged the issue and has started putting a fix to roll back the changes with a one sentence update:

A fix has been applied and will be rolling out for this issue.

Timeline for the fix

As of late afternoon Wednesday July the 26th, I’m still seeing the issue in my Gmail webmail account. In fact I’m seeing the issue in my other Gmail account as well, so it seems like it has gotten worse since yesterday. But I’m hopeful this will get resolved shortly as Google has now acknowledged it.

Google image proxy to blame?

As most email developers are aware, images in Gmail are proxied through their own proxies to protect the recipients privacy so image trackers are not able to detect the location of the email reader.

Brian Theis stumbled upon an intriguing possibility while investigating. It seems there might be a bug in certain proxies that could potentially cause background images not to load, leading the CSS sanitizer code to remove the CSS with the background image.

So I’d surmise that the reason why some of us are seeing the bug but not others is that the bug appears to be related to which account are proxied through the affected proxies.

Time for Google to engage with the email community?

Some passionate email developers have formed the Email Markup Consortium to get all the email client stakeholders to come together to agree on a common set of HTML support.

Google has yet to join and it feels like this issue would’ve been addressed much sooner if a representative from Gmail was part of the group. So if anyone knows some from Gmail, let them know about the group!

Still sending test emails for review and approval? Use ProofJump.

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