After beating back spam, Microsoft’s Hotmail takes on rest of the crap in your inbox

Daily deals, social networking alerts, and email newsletters. Sure, you might have agreed to receive them, but if your email inbox is your digital workbench, do you really want all that stuff sitting on top?

The answer is probably no, and Microsoft’s Windows Live Hotmail today announced a series of new features designed to address what it describes as “graymail” — the stuff in that gray area between important messages and honest-to-goodness unwanted spam (which Hotmail’s screening technologies have reduced to less than 3% of messages  in the inbox, according to the company.)

In related news, Microsoft also released a Hotmail app for Android today, to address the fact that not all Android distributions have an email client that supports Exchange ActiveSync.

Here are the highlights from Hotmail’s new graymail-fighting features, which are slated to roll out in the coming weeks.

Categories and pinning flagged messages in the upcoming Windows Live Hotmail revamp. (Click for larger view.)

Categorizing newsletters: Hotmail will automatically categorize identify incoming newsletters and categorize them as such, making it easier to set up filters that get rid of them or set them aside for reading when it’s convenient. Microsoft says it’s 95% accurate in identifying newsletters, and it expects to get better over time as the system learns from user corrections.

One-click unsubscribe: A built-in feature of Hotmail will handle the process of unsubscribing from a newsletter, delete the messages from the inbox, and send any further messages from the sender into the junk folder.

Periodic cleanups: Users can set up rules to keep only the latest message from a particular sender (such as the most recent daily deal) or to delete or move messages after a set period of time.

Pinning flagged emails: Emails that are flagged by users as important will stick to the top of the inbox, in a separate section, until they’re unflagged. Users can set up rules to automatically flag and pin messages with certain characteristics, such as messages they send to themselves.

This might sound like a manual version of Google’s Priority Inbox in Gmail. However, Brian Hall, a Windows Live GM, said the company believes its existing filtered views, with the first two options being unread messages and messages from contacts, are a better approach than Priority Inbox.

Hotmail is the largest webmail service worldwide, according to comScore, although Gmail has been gaining fast. Here’s a look at the rankings from the firm.


  • Guest

    Thank you Google. None of this would be happening if Gmail wasn’t so successful and stealing away hotmail users.

  • Fontguy

    I can take care of this stuff today already using SpringClean on iPhone.  And it works with Yahoo and Gmail too…

  • Pissedoff

    Hotmail is absolute crap.