Gmail Tries To Make It Easier To Unsubscribe From Spam Newsletters, But Fails

When it comes to email, less is more. So I applaud Gmail’s efforts to try to reduce all the unwanted emails in my inbox. Its latest attempt to make it easier to unsubscribe from unwanted email newsletters is well-intentioned, but falls flat on its face in its current form. When you report a newsletter as spam, you may now see the notification box above asking you if you want to automagically unsubscribe as well. You would click “Unsubscribe and report as spam” and Gmail will unsubscribe for you.

Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, that is because it is. First of all, it only works for messages which include a “List-Unsusbcribe” header in the email with an accompanying “mailto” URL. No self-respecting spammer would include those. But wait, it gets worse. The feature is purposely not activated for known spammers. Brad Taylor, writes on the Gmail Blog:

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.

Just to repeat that: the unsubscribe-from-spam-newsletters feature does not work for known spam. Okay, I guess that makes sense. It’s a losing battle, and spammers will obviously not cooperate. But why then combine this feature with the report-spam button in the first place?

The Gmail team should separate the two functions. It should just make an unsubscribe button appear on email newsletters which contain the correct header information. I get annoyed at all the email newsletters that come into my inbox, but they are not all spam. Some of them I even subscribed to myself in moments of weakness, although most of them I have no idea how they start appearing in my inbox. But even for the unwanted ones, I realize it is not necessarily the publisher of those email newsletters who signed me up. And not all of them deserve being labeled as spam. I just want an easy way to unsubscribe.

Can you give that to me, Gmail?

Update I heard back from Google. They say a regular “unsubscribe” option already exists. It’s really hidden. You need to click on “show details” at the top of the email, and then there should be an unsubscribe option for those email newsletters with the proper header information. It would be much better if they just made it a big, glowing “unsubscribe” button that appears when available.