New Hotmail Features Reduce 'Graymail' Clutter
October 5, 2011

New Hotmail Features Reduce ‘Graymail’ Clutter

Microsoft unveiled several new features for its Hotmail email service on Monday designed to give users new tools to manage the clutter in their in-boxes.

The software company made the announcement during its Windows Live event in San Francisco.

One of the new tools seeks to help users eliminate so-called “graymail” -- newsletters and social networking updates that aren't quite spam, but may be unwanted.  Other features include the ability automatically “clean up” an in-box, improved flags to move important emails to the top of the mailbox, and more.

"Seventy-five percent of email identified as spam by our customers actually turns out to be unwanted graymail that they receive as a result of having signed up on a legitimate website," wrote Dick Craddock, program manager for the Hotmail service, in a blog posting entitled “Hotmail declares war on graymail” on the company´s Windows blog.

To sort through those messages, Microsoft launched a new newsletter category that lets users flag such emails for deletion, or to read later.  Additionally, a new, one-click “unsubscribe” feature allows Hotmail users to stop receiving unwanted newsletters.

The company also unveiled a scheduled cleanup feature to retain only the latest event email from a site, such as the latest deals from Groupon, or only the newest newsletter, providing another way of reducing inbox clutter.

"The war on graymail isn't just about deleting things or moving them to folders,” Craddock wrote, referencing the company´s improved flag feature, which tracks important messages by "pinning" them to the top of the inbox.

Users can create specific rules to automatically flag messages as well.

Windows Live vice president Chris Jones told conference attendees that the Hotmail additions are part of the company´s efforts to combat a negative perception of the email service, which now has some 350 million subscribers worldwide.

By comparison, Yahoo's e-mail service has approximately 310 million users, while Gmail has roughly 260 million users worldwide.

However, in the U.S., Hotmail has about half as many subscribers as Yahoo, according to a CNET report.

Microsoft pledged to unveil additional features in the coming weeks.

"We're just getting started," Craddock wrote.


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