Hotmail introduced advanced features for fighting the war on graymail this past fall, and since then, customers have conquered graymail over 100 million times using features like Sweep and Schedule Cleanup. In this post, I’ll talk about how Hotmail customers are taking control of their email with Sweep, Schedule Cleanup, and Hotmail’s newsletter filter, and we’ll show you how these tools can help you conquer graymail in your own inbox in just 60 seconds.
Graymail—messages like newsletters, daily deals, and notifications—is filling up inboxes all over the world. Newsletters alone typically make up more than 50% of a person’s email. Managing all that graymail takes time and can be a hassle. Hotmail continues to add innovative features to let you take control of graymail and take back your inbox.
Hotmail’s newsletter category automatically identifies most newsletters and lets you see them all in one place with a single click. One-click unsubscribe lets you get rid of unwanted newsletters instantly.
Schedule Cleanup is a powerful new feature that lets you automatically manage bulk mail. With Schedule Cleanup, you can:
Schedule Cleanup not only takes care of the mail you’ve already received, but keeps working for you as you receive new mail. It’s one of the most efficient ways to keep your inbox tidy.
Sweep lets you move or delete unwanted graymail quickly and easily, and can even automatically set up rules for managing new mail as it arrives.
Categories let you organize your mail the way you want. Hotmail automatically categorizes things like newsletters, social updates, photos, Office docs and shipping updates. Now, you can create your own categories and have each one show up as a QuickView.
And of course, these features work well together. Categories can be used together with Schedule Cleanup, making those tools even more powerful. For instance, you can use Schedule Cleanup to delete all newsletters as they get old, just by using Schedule Cleanup on the newsletter category.
It’s been just two months since we finished the deployment of our most recent major release, and we’ve already seen millions of people use these tools to quickly take control of their own inbox. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers.
Since November, 2011, customers have performed over 100 million actions to conquer graymail: Sweeping, categorizing, and using Schedule Cleanup.
And what’s more, we’re seeing an increasing use of these powerful tools. Each month, more people use Sweep and Schedule Cleanup to get rid of their graymail. In fact, we’ve seen a double-digit increase in the use of these features month-over-month since our October release.
The best news is that these tools are quick and easy to use. In this video, we’ll show you how you can take back your own inbox in just 60 seconds.
More and more people are using Hotmail’s innovative tools to fight their own war on graymail, and we hope you’ll give these tools a try yourself. We’d love to hear about your own experience using Sweep, Schedule Cleanup, categories, and the rest.
As always, thanks for using Hotmail.
Group Program Manager, Hotmail
Living in Seattle, we see a lot of gray- gray sky, gray clothes, gray weather. So, they last thing we want to have overwhelming our inboxes is graymail. For those of you who don’t know, graymail is the mail that lives between spam and personal mail. It’s the catalogues you’ve signed up for, the school PTA letters, or the coupon buster newsletter. You want to get it; you just don’t want to read it all.
Hotmail has made it a personal mission to stay on top of graymail and to help you find ways to sort, filter and delete the necessary clutter. To help you learn the tools, the tricks and the techniques to stay on top of graymail, the Hotmail team is joining today’s #win7tech Tech Tuesday chat. We are going to focus on saving time, staying productive and getting the most out of your email. Plus, we’ve got 20 awesome prizes to give away.
To participate in the Tech Tuesday Live Twitter Chat:
Note we will only be talking about the outlined topic each week and we will not be answering questions outside those topics. Questions for this week may include: What is graymail? How does Hotmail protect against spamming?
Hotmail has come a long way in spam protection and is now among the best in the industry in keeping spam out of your inbox. Our own internal metrics, customer feedback, and even a recent third-party report confirms that no mail service offers better protection than Hotmail. You can read all about it in the Gadgetwise column in the New York Times.
Our years of improvements in Hotmail’s SmartScreen technology have led to record low rates of spam in the inbox (SITI), and our customers can tell the difference. We’ve driven SITI down below 3% for a typical Hotmail inbox, and, more importantly, we’ve kept the number there.
Our metrics tell us that we’re doing a good job, and we’re pleased with the progress. But let’s look beyond metrics for a moment. Keeping your inbox clean is about three things, and Hotmail does a great job on all three:
Metrics are great, but what we really care about is hearing from our customers about their own experiences with Hotmail. We have several ways to get customer feedback:
Customer support: Complaints related to spam, including phishing, junk and malware, have dropped by over 40% over the past year.
Direct customer feedback: Hotmail includes a feedback link, which we call “voice of the customer” or VOTC. Our voice of the customer data gives us incredibly valuable feedback and verbatim comments from you on what’s going well and what isn’t. We take this feedback seriously: members of the development team read this feedback every day and spend time categorizing it, finding patterns and trends, and using it to make product improvments. The total number of complaints related to spam has shrunk by over 50% over the past two years. This would be a great result by itself, but it’s even more remarkable when you consider that our overall feedback volume has been steadily increasing.
We’ve seen really spectacular progress in certain areas around spam management. For example, complaints about managing safe and blocked sender lists has dropped to near zero. Questions like “why did my mail end up where it did?” have similarly dropped to near zero. Complaints around “repeat spam” have been cut in half – from 35% down to 17% of complaint volume.
While we’re happy with the results, we know that there are still areas to improve. For example, we still see feedback on phishing attacks.
In-product telemetry: We know that customers who use Hotmail regularly (for example, as their primary email) see lower than average SITI due to our investments in personalization of our spam filtering. Put simply: the more you use Hotmail, the better the experience gets.
As much as we invest in our own telemetry and instrumentation to understand the spam problem, sometimes it’s nice to get an outside perspective. Cascade Insights gave us just that recently with a comprehensive study of the major email services to see how each performed in the face of incoming spam. We were excited to see an analyst go deep on SPAM and compare the different webmail providers, so we’ve paid Cascade for rights to access and distribute their private report and methodology.
The short story? No one did better than Hotmail. In fact, Hotmail and Gmail were dead even when dealing with spam, and both did much better than other email providers.
The methodology defined by Cascade Insights was straightforward and consistent across email providers. It’s important to note that this was just one study which used a particular methodology, and that your own results may vary. But we’re confident that if you use Hotmail for your primary email, you’ll get the best spam protection in the industry – no one does it better.
If you’re already using Hotmail, we want to hear from you. You can use the Feedback link in Hotmail to let us know about your own spam experience.
If you haven’t tried us out in a while, take a look. If you have a Hotmail account that you haven’t been using, you may see some accumulation of mail you don’t want. Some of it might be old spam, and some might be graymail. (That’s legitimate email that you just don’t want, like newsletters or daily deals you’re no longer interested in. We’ll have more on that subject soon.) We recommend using Sweep to clean up your Inbox, then using Hotmail as your primary email for a while to get the benefit of our improvements, especially what we’ve done with personalization. Once you start using your account again, you should see very little spam on an ongoing basis.
We’re working hard to keep spam out of your inbox, and we hope you like the results. As always, thanks for using Hotmail.
Group Program Manager, Hotmail
The Hotmail team got some great (and humbling) news recently – Hotmail was named best web application of 2011 by PC Magazine. We were particularly excited to see that people are taking notice of Hotmail’s war on Graymail and the work we’ve done this year to make Hotmail faster. There are a lot of great web applications out there, and we’re in great company, but it was an honor to make the very top of the list.
As always, this is an honor we share with the hundreds of millions of you that use Hotmail every day. There’s still a lot more to do, and we look forward to delivering it to you.
David Law – Director, Hotmail Product Management
In previous posts on our blog, we talked about how we’ve reduced true spam in the inbox to under 3% using SmartScreen™ filtering. But we realized that getting rid of true spam wasn’t enough, because 75% of the email messages that people reported as spam are really legitimate newsletters, offers, or notifications that you just don’t want anymore. We call this type of unwanted email graymail, and we’re excited to announce five powerful tools to help you take control of your inbox, get rid of graymail, and keep track of the email that’s important to you.
In the early days of email, most mail in the inbox was from someone you knew, but today’s email is used for much more, and so the inbox is different. More than half of the mail in a typical inbox is newsletters or deals, 17% is social updates, and about 14% is person to person email. The rest represents mail from group distribution lists, shopping receipts and commerce, and true spam.
The problem with today’s inbox is that it is easy for it to get filled up with mail you don’t want. It could be newsletters you signed up for and forgot about (but keep getting), or it could be newsletters you get when you join a new service (and forgot to uncheck that pesky box that says “send me lots of email!”). Or it could even be updates you get from a social network or website. What really characterizes graymail 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. In fact, 75% 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. And because of inbox clutter, it’s easy to lose track of the really important messages in your inbox that you want to get back to. So we decided in our upcoming release to add five new features that help customers take back control of their inbox.
We’ve talked about categories for a while now – in our last release we delivered automatic categorization of social updates, messages that contain Office documents, messages with photos, and even shipping notifications. We’re now adding a special category for newsletters. We use the same SmartScreen™ technology that helps us fight spam – a machine learning engine that gets better over time. Right out of the gate, we’re 95% accurate with the mail we categorize as newsletters, and this will only get better as you help us build the feature by categorizing or un-categorizing your own mail. In fact, every time you categorize an email as a newsletter, you help make our filtering better for yourself and every other customer.
Sometimes you don’t want a newsletter, but it’s hard to find out how to stop getting it. Now with Hotmail you can do it all in one step. Click on unsubscribe, and we’ll do the rest – let the site know to stop mailing you, use Sweep to immediately clean up your mail and remove all the old newsletters from that sender, and finally send any new ones that come in to your junk mail until the sender takes you off their list.
There are other times you want to keep getting the newsletter, but only want to keep the latest copy. This is great for shopping sites or deals where the newsletter is really only useful for the first week and then the offer expires or a new newsletter takes its place. Today, we’re introducing Schedule Cleanup, a new tool, unique to Hotmail, that works behind the scenes to keep your inbox organized. With Schedule Cleanup, you can:
Here are some ways to use Schedule Cleanup:
The war on graymail isn’t just about deleting things or moving them to folders. It’s also about making sure you can find messages quickly, especially messages that are most important to you.
This happens to our customers all the time: they get an important message and want to keep it right up front where they won’t forget it. How do you handle that? A lot of people mark the message unread. But, of course, as new mail comes in, that can get confusing. Some people forward the message to themselves so that it stays at the top of their inbox.
At Hotmail, we think the right way to track important messages is with flags, and our upcoming changes make flags even more powerful. Now when you flag a message, it gets “pinned” to the top of your inbox and stays there, even as new email comes in. This means it is easy to keep track of your most important messages, right up front, all the time. What’s more, you can even set up rules to automatically flag incoming mail from certain senders, so that your most important mail is always right there at the top of your inbox.
Of course, flags are a category, just like newsletters or social updates, so you can use Sweep or Schedule Cleanup on flags.
While we think these automatic categories work great for most customers, we recognize that some customers want even more control over their inbox, or they like using labels in products like Gmail. So we’re adding support for custom categories, powered by Sweep and Schedule Cleanup, so they are easy to set up and use.
You can quickly create a new category and apply that category to all related messages at the same time – no searching for mail, no complex rules to create. You can categorize messages right in the message list with the new categories column. And categories show up as QuickViews right next to folders, so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for.
Now if you’re a filer and use folders, you might be wondering how all of this helps you. Categories, Sweep, and Schedule Cleanup work great for folders. Simply click on a message, click Sweep or Schedule cleanup, and move all messages from that sender (or in a category), including future messages, to a folder. And of course, you have the same ability to create your own folders and sub-folders. But we didn’t stop there – we’ve added advanced folder management tools: nested folder with drag and drop, creating new folders right inline, and a new right-click menu for folders that lets you mark everything in the folder as read, or rename, empty, or even delete the folder.
Whew! That’s a lot of new features for fighting the war on graymail and keeping track of your important messages. And we’re just getting started. We’ll have more on these features and others as they roll out in the coming weeks. So try out our new tools when they hit your inbox and let us know what you think!
Dick Craddock - Group Program Manager, Hotmail