Jul 28, 2011

Meet MailChimp Embed – Simple and Controlled Delivery for Applications

Every once in a while we get an application that wants to do a deep integration with MailChimp. They’ve read our guides and decided that deliverability is way more than what they’ve signed up for. They just want to use MailChimp to send email on behalf of their users. Their needs are simple – just give MailChimp a list of email addresses, give it some content to send, and track stats – that must be what MailChimp’s built for, right?

Well, no. See, MailChimp is, first and foremost, an application for our users and not an API for developers. You can’t just take an application, sprinkle a little MailChimp on top, and be sending emails just like that. Over the years, MailChimp has added a bunch of features for our users beyond just the email delivery part, and wrapping your head around all of that can be too much (have you seen the spec for the templating language?), especially when you’re a busy developer looking for a quick way to knock out a feature. Tack on to that the fact that you can’t create users or lists through the MailChimp API, and it’s enough to get most integrators to go from "Yeah, let’s do this!" to "Ummmm, hmmmmm – we’ll get back to you" in no time flat. Having this happen to us more than once led us to try to search for a solution, and I’d like to share what we’ve come up with.

Meet MailChimp Embed

MailChimp Embed is a simple data model and API expressly designed to give applications direct access to our powerful delivery architecture and tracking, without any of the extra limits and complications of using the standard MailChimp API alone. You create your own users and you decide what their limits should be. Use our simple API to add contacts and send messages, then track stats. You bill your users directly or offer it for free, and settle up with us in bulk later. There are no features that aren’t in the API, and there are no fields that you can’t control. It’s the simplest possible way to add bulk email features to an existing application.

As part of developing MailChimp, we’ve built what we think is a world-class infrastructure for sending permission-based bulk emails, and we’d like to share it with more people. MailChimp isn’t going to be a fit for everybody, but email is embedded in almost every application at one layer or another, and the spam problem means that delivery is getting more complicated every year. MailChimp Embed gives us another way to offer the exact same delivery features we offer to all MailChimp users to a new audience, with a more curated, less one-size-fits-all approach.

This is not white label MailChimp

Ben may smack me down for the presumption, but I think I can safely say that no MailChimp application for bulk email will ever have a full white label option. For abuse protection purposes alone, we will have to take action against accounts, and we cannot do it through a proxy. If one of your users does something nasty, they will be getting an email from MailChimp, and we’ll be up front about that. Having said that, MailChimp Embed will not force an interface (it doesn’t have one), so you can fully customize all other regular interactions with your users. We won’t force our language or our logo anywhere. They’ll only notice that MailChimp is doing the delivery if they look up the domains.

So I hear you say "That’s awesome! I have this idea for a CRM/social network for post-symphony-industrial-gunkcore fans and…" Okay, here’s the bad news. Right now, we’re only looking for applications that already have at least a few thousand users that might be interested in this sort of feature. The amount of control you’ll have over your accounts and their billing is pretty huge, so the vetting process will be long and vigorous.

Alright. You’ve heard the pitch. Think this might be for you? Sign up for more info