Hotmail is one of the oldest mass-market, free email services, but it's been overshadowed for years by Gmail. Microsoft has overhauled Hotmail several times in a bid to make the service easier to use, and is preparing to launch a new suite of tools that it hopes will make the service easier to use. In a recent post on the Windows Team Blog, Dick Craddock discusses the company's war on spam and its efforts to confront the problem of "gray mail."
In previous posts on our blog, we talked about how we’ve reduced true spam in the inbox to under 3% using SmartScreen filtering. But we realized that getting rid of true spam wasn’t enough, because 75% of the email messages that people reported as spam are really legitimate newsletters, offers, or notifications that you just don’t want anymore. We call this type of unwanted email graymail, and we’re excited to announce five powerful tools to help you take control of your inbox, get rid of graymail, and keep track of the email that’s important to you.
The problem with today’s inbox is that it is easy for it to get filled up with mail you don’t want. It could be newsletters you signed up for and forgot about (but keep getting), or it could be newsletters you get when you join a new service (and forgot to uncheck that pesky box that says “send me lots of email!”). Or it could even be updates you get from a social
network or website. What really characterizes graymail is that the same message that one person thinks is “spam” could be really important to another person. It’s not black and white, hence the name.
Personally, we think the term has more in common with "gray water"
Microsoft's solution to the graymail problem is a an option that allows users to categorize mail as newsletters and filter them appropriately. It's also introducing what it calls "one-click unsubscribe." Choose the option, and Hotmail will automatically take care of the unsubscription process (including blocking any future mailings from actually reaching your inbox).
Even if the site doesn't follow its own unsubscription policies, Hotmail will take out the garbage. Other new options include the ability to discard email from specific senders as they age (3, 10, 30, or 60 days), move messages to a specific folder after a set amount of time, and the ability to create more custom filters and folders for tracking specific email.
It's been a long time since Hotmail qualified as sexy, but we have to admit that the site's new features--particularly the 'Unsubscribe' option--are intriguing. Old email accounts tend to become cluttered with large amounts of what MS identifies as graymail, but a simple way to remove that clutter could make Hotmail usable again.