Self-Deleting Emails As a New Protocol?

Joshua Baer, CEO of OtherInBox, proposed a new addition to email protocol standards at the February Inbox Love conference.  He thinks emails should include an irrelevance header to auto-expire (delete) the email once the time has been reached.

This idea isn’t new, but it’s somewhat controversial.  The “x-expires” header has been proposed and kicked around by those in the industry for over a decade.  Many emails, like special coupon offers, group activity notices, meeting notices, and so forth often clutter up users’ inboxes for weeks.  Using the x-expires tag, those emails could be auto-deleted or re-filed without the need for user intervention.

The header tag could be set for a certain number of days from the email’s sending or opening, for a specific date and time, or a combination of the two.

To get the x-expires tag set as a standard, Baer says he’ll have to convince others in the industry to voluntarily adopt it.  OtherInBox has already adopted the tag in their own system and others may be following suit.  If enough email providers and readers do so, the standard will be set in place de facto.

Opponents think that the tag could be exploited by spammers (eager to remove evidence) and could lead to confusion amongst users, who wonder where their emails suddenly went.

One way around this and that has been discussed at the Google group for the proposal is to allow users to set options for where expired emails go.  Such as a “to be deleted” box rather than the trash can (similar to a spam folder).

The idea has merit and may become accepted now that bigger names in the business are discussing it.

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