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Hotmail looks to eliminate 'graymail'


"More than half of the mail in a typical inbox is newsletters or deals, 17 percent is social updates, and about 14 percent is person to person email," says Dick Craddock of Hotmail. "The rest represents mail from group distribution lists, shopping receipts and commerce and true spam."

Hotmail Monday announced changes to help users streamline email overload, some of which Microsoft refers to as "graymail."

Those who work on Hotmail, which has tightened up email security and imposed stronger spam filters, "realized that getting rid of true spam wasn’t enough, because 75 percent of the email messages that people reported as spam are really legitimate newsletters, offers, or notifications that you just don’t want anymore," said Dick Craddock, group program manager for Hotmail on a Windows blog. "We call this type of unwanted email graymail."

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

To deal with graymail, Hotmail is adding these features, which will roll out in the "coming weeks," he said:

A new "newsletter' category: "In our last release we delivered automatic categorization of social updates, messages that contain Office documents, messages with photos, and even shipping notifications," Craddock wrote on the blog. "We’re now adding a special category for newsletters. We use the same SmartScreen technology that helps us fight spam."


One-click unsubscribe: If you feel inundated by newsletters or offers you once signed up for with relish -- but now could care less, "Click on unsubscribe, and we’ll do the rest — let the site know to stop mailing you, use Sweep (email cleanup tool) to immediately clean up your mail and remove all the old newsletters from that sender, and finally send any new ones that come in to your junk mail until the sender takes you off their list."


Schedule Cleanup: This tool lets you choose whether you want to keep only the latest message from a certain sender; delete messages as they get old (choosing form 3 days, 10 days 30 days or 60 days old); or move messages to a folder.

Ways you can use Schedule Cleanup, Craddock says:

  • Keep only the latest event calendar email from your favorite site
  • Keep only the latest deal from Groupon or LivingSocial, or any other deal vendor
  • Delete your newsletters after 10 days — that way, whether you read them or not, they are never clogging up your inbox
  • Automatically archive mail from your financial institutions to a folder after 30 days


Flagging your mail: Just as with Outlook, yo'll be able to flag messages to pin them to the top of your inbox (yea and finally!).

Custom categories: Ditto here (yea and finally): "While we think these automatic categories work great for most customers, we recognize that some customers want even more control over their inbox, or they like using labels in products like Gmail. So we’re adding support for custom categories, powered by Sweep and Schedule Cleanup, so they are easy to set up and use."

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