Microsoft targets Hotmail’s greymail

Microsoft is targeting “greymail” in its spam battle, looking to clean up unwanted newsletters from Hotmail inboxes.

Microsoft targets Hotmail's greymail

While Microsoft claims to have cut the amount of spam landing in Hotmail to 3% of messages, three-quarters of the messages users label as spam are actually legitimate newsletters and notifications that they simply don’t want any more.

“The problem with today’s inbox is that it is easy for it to get filled up with mail you don’t want,” said Dick Craddock, Hotmail’s group product manager, in a post on the Windows Live blog. “What really characterises greymail 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.

“Despite the drastic decrease of true spam in the inbox, we found that most customers are still seeing newsletters, product offers, and other clutter,” he added.

What’s in your inbox?

Hotmail users’ inboxes are filled with:

– newsletters and deals (50%)

– social updates (17%)

– messages from people (14%)

– groups and notifications (9%)

– shopping (6%)

– spam (2%)

– other (2%)

Such greymail could be newsletters that are no longer interesting, updates from websites or social networks, or messages from sites you’ve signed up for, but neglected to click the “don’t email me” box.

New features

To battle the problem, Hotmail is getting five more features. First, there’s a newsletter category that will automatically categorise messages – although users can still move messages in and out of the folder if they wish.

Users will also be able to build their own categories and use them with the updated folder system, while flags will be more “powerful”, pinning a flagged message to the top of the inbox until it’s dealt with.

Hotmail users will also be handed a one-click tool to unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters, rather than having to go to the original site to do it.

Schedule Cleanup will let users set rules for deleting mail – such as to keep only the latest message from a deal site, or delete newsletters after a week.

The features will roll out over the next few weeks.

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