Pluto Mail describes itself as “the Snapchat of email,” but the handy site does more than just make your messages disappear. It also lets you edit your emails before they are opened, see if they have been read, and can save your messages to your Dropbox account instead of in your sent folders.
The site is currently in limited beta, but the first 500 people to sign up using this link can access Pluto Mail immediately.
The service, which recently raised $30,000 in seed funding from Rough Draft Ventures and Dorm Room Fund, lets you connect your email account directly and works by turning your message and attachments into a .jpeg file before sending it on to its recipient. Once your message expires, the .jpeg files disappears (though you can also chose to send a link to a text file).
“Pluto takes the content in the email and turns it into an image and also saves it. The image and content is hosted in the user’s Dropbox or on our servers and an HTML image tag and iframe is put in the email. When the email is opened the image and iframe load the content from Dropbox/our server so that is how the sender maintains control of it after send,” explains co-founder David Gobaud.
Pluto Mail’s recently launched Dropbox support allows users to link their accounts to Pluto and store all their email content and attachments there instead of on Pluto Mail’s servers. Then users who want to unsend or delete their emails just need to delete the Pluto Mail folder in their Dropbox Apps folder.
To be sure, people can take screenshots of emails or download them before they disappear from their inboxes. But you can rescind an email before it has been read and the text isn’t part of your recipient’s permanent email archive.
“There has been a shift from the days of Yahoo Mail’s 25MB storage limit to practically unlimited storage which means emails last forever. Every little digital statement someone makes shouldn’t follow them for the rest of their life,” says Gobaud.
Gobaud began thinking of a product like Pluto Mail two years ago, but didn’t want to create something that “required users to change their email address or client and required recipients to use the service,” the way other similar services work. Then he figured out how to support email auto-expire, unsend, and editing after send in a way that allows people to keep using their email clients and addresses to compose and read messages.
Gobaud and his co-founder, Lindsay Lin, are both Harvard Law School students. Gobaud majored in computer science at Stanford and is a former Googler. After graduating, he started and led a software automation team in the Executive Office of the President. Lin majored in mathematics at the University of Virginia and taught herself how to program in Ruby on Rails while in law school.
If you don’t link your Dropbox account, your messages are saved on Pluto’s servers, which also keeps copy of some meta information (such as subject line, email recipients, and so on) so users can manage their emails, says Gobaud. But you can also chose to delete emails from Pluto, in which case all content is erased from their servers.
“The meta info may exist in backups for at most three days after which it will be completely deleted. We also have an auto-eliminate feature that when enabled automatically deletes the emails from our servers at the time of expiration or unsend,” he adds.
Alternatives to Pluto Mail for sensitive messages include SecretInk, the “undo send” feature in Gmail, and Snapchat itself.
Pluto Mail differentiates by working “without downloads or plugins and the recipient does not have to be using Pluto to read Pluto emails,” says Gobaud. “Pluto allows you to communicate with anyone that has email and does not require them to join the service – this is the primary advantage over other apps and services.”