Gmail offering unsubscribe option

This morning Lifehacker reported that Gmail was offering an option to unsubscribe from some legitimate email lists.
Gmail’s help pages say:

We don’t think you should be burdened with managing messages you don’t want to receive. We do our best to put messages in Spam when we’re pretty sure you won’t want or need them. But everyone has different preferences about the mail they want to see. You may not want to read any messages sent by a certain company or mailing list, while another Gmail user finds these same messages to be valuable.
To help solve this problem, we’re providing you with an unsubscribe tool for some messages. You’ll see the unsubscribe tool when you mark a message from particular types of mailing lists as spam. If the particular message is a misuse of a mailing list you like to receive, you can Report spam as usual. But if you never want to receive another message or newsletter from that list again, click Unsubscribe instead. We’ll send a request to the sender that your email address be removed from the list. It’s that simple!

This prompted a number of us to start testing Gmail to see if we could identify what Gmail was using in order to present the unsubscribe message to the end user. Many thanks to the folks who tested various things and reported back the results.
Conditions where the unsubscribe option is presented include

  • The mail is authenticated
  • The sender has a good reputation
  • The email has a mailto: option in the List-Unsubscribe header
  • The recipients marks the message as spam

This is a small step along the path to an ISP mediated unsubscribe button. As of yet, I don’t know if other ISPs will adopt this model. As well, I expect senders will not like this implementation as the ‘unsubscribe’ option is only presented if they user has marked the message as spam.
On the other hand, this could simply be Gmail’s attempt to implement a feedback loop without the overhead involved in actually managing a feedback loop.


  1. Dave Greiner says

    Thanks for sharing this news Laura. While I agree it’s a step in the right direction, it does seem counter-intuitive to only show this option when an email is reported as spam.
    It’s also surprising that Google isn’t supporting the web-based unsubscribe mechanism like Hotmail, which means the unsubscribe happens instantly instead of eventually sending an email back to the ESP.
    While it’s great to see an improvement, unsubscribing from something and reporting it as spam are two very different actions. It would be great to see Gmail replace the Report Spam button with an Unsubscribe button like Hotmail do, or at the very least offer it as a separate option for reputable senders.
    Beggars can’t be choosers I guess.

  2. Al says

    I didn’t find any such option in Gmail when I tried to experiment with some lists that I am subscribed to. I searched their help pages and couldn’t find any info either. Also no info about this feature on their blog.
    Does anyone have a direct link to Gmail help pages where I can find this info?

  3. Greg Alton says

    I wish everyone would implement feedback loops through the existing delivery status notification mechanism. It would be easier for all admins to implement systems, which respect subscribers.

  4. Gmail’s new unsubscribe feature « Hyper Gumbo says

    […] hoping that they are planning on using their massive google-powers to track how often those unsubscribes end up generating more spam, rather than […]

  5. Kieran Cooper says

    Laura, you mentioned that it only worked where the list-unsubscribe header was a mailto:, ie an unsub by email link. Do you know the gmail thing definitely doesn’t work if the header has an ordinary URL in it? It works in Hotmail but I wondered if your testing had yet identified whether that worked in gmail….

  6. Andrei Georgescu says

    This is a good news but actually the button will be named “Unsubscribe and report spam”…and I have a bad feeling putting together “unsubscribe” and “report spam” because I believe that… in time “report spam” will be actually confused completely with “unsubscribe” and that will hurt email marketers reputation.

  7. Schlag Skezinsky says

    Users will likely increase their usage of the unsub + report spam option because it eases their efforts at unsubscribing manually. This increased usage will likewise increase sender’s spam complaints & spam scores at, denting their delivery rates. Hardly encouraging, especially when senders already include an unsubscribe link as required by CAN-SPAM. If Gmail wants wider adoption of List-Unsubscribe, their implementation is not enticing.

  8. Ramprasad says

    Gmail must have an option of “unsubscribe” as well as “unsubscribe + report spam”
    I cant see the button anyway
    BTW Why does gmail mot simply use a feedback loop.

  9. vaske says

    Thanks, I was wondering why our List-Unsubscribe header doesn’t work in gmail, problem is in fact that we use pure URL instead of mailto… thanks for posting this 🙂

  10. Roland says

    Unsubscribe option is great but sure is no replacement for a feedback loop. A convenient way to find out if a recipient doesn’t want to be on our mailing list so we can remove them. Works great with all other email providers so I don’t know why Gmail has to be different!


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