Gmail Tries to Make It Easy to Unsubscribe from Unwanted Newsletters
Even for the most casual user, emails can come in at a rate that makes it hard to keep up with them. And most of these emails are unsolicited or unwanted junk mail, usually newsletters from all sorts of places. Most users though don’t bother going through the unsubscribing process and, at least in Gmail, just hit the “Report as spam” button and are done with it but the fact is that it doesn’t really work and further email from that sender is bound to come in. A new Gmail feature though aims to change that by allowing users to easily unsubscribe from the newsletter.
Most discussions about junk mail revolve around spam but that has become less of a problem for most users as they become accustomed to ignoring the ones that get through the filters. While most email services do a decent job at weeding out spam other types of email, while not technically spam, isn’t blocked and can still be very annoying. No matter how you try to protect yourself, you are bound to receive newsletters that you haven’t actively subscribed to from all sorts of sites, forums or businesses. Sure, most provide some ways of unsubscribing but sometimes it can be so convoluted that reporting it as spam seems like a much simpler option.
But, apart from the rewarding feeling of sending the newsletter to email hell, that doesn’t really do anything else. Other users might find that newsletter useful so it’s unlikely that the sender will get into Gmail’s spam filters. This is where the new feature comes in. When hitting the “Report as spam” button on a newsletter users will be showed an option to unsubscribe from it. In theory, this should take care of a lot of headaches and provide a simple one-click solution to the problem.
In practice though, things don’t really work out. Here’s the problem coming from Brad Taylor, Gmail Spam Czar, himself: “This only works for some senders right now. We’re actively encouraging senders to support auto-unsubscribe — we think 100% should. We won’t provide the unsubscribe option on messages from spammers: we can’t trust that they’ll actually unsubscribe you, and they might even send you more spam. So you’ll only see the unsubscribe option for senders that we’re pretty sure are not spammers and will actually honor your unsubscribe request. We’re being pretty conservative about which senders to trust in the beginning; over time, we hope to offer the ability to unsubscribe from more email.”
For the feature to work the sender has to actively provide information like a “List-Unsusbcribe” header and the mailto link to unsubscribe. Considering that many of these newsletters are hidden away in “Terms of service” agreements or inconspicuous checkmarks when signing up for a service and the fact that the process of unsubscribing makes users jump through hoops and visit several pages before completing it it’s highly unlikely that the companies or individuals behind the newsletters are going to make it easy for Gmail to remove you from their list.