Ideally, Your Email Would Expire in 5 ... 4 ... 3 ...
By Ken Magill
Joshua Baer is on a mission.
The founder and CEO of OtherInbox wants marketers to be able to include expiration dates in their email headers.
After the emails expired, the receiving ISP would take some sort of automatic action, such as delete the expired messages or put them into a special folder.
However, Baer’s main challenge is getting widespread adoption.
He contends email with expiration dates would be especially useful for marketers who send out daily deals. However, he added, the mechanism would contain benefits for all marketers.
“The overriding thing is it’s going to create a better user experience, which benefits everyone,” he said. “Obviously, if email isn’t relevant anymore, it’s a better user experience if the user never sees it.”
In order to get his plan implemented, he’s got to get a critical-mass of marketers to begin including a line of code in their email headers. People in both the sender and receiver camps are open to the idea, he said, but one group has to take the lead.
“It is a chicken-and-egg problem,” he said. “Everybody is like, ‘I’ll do it if you do it, well, I’ll do it if you do it. Invariably in these types of situations, it’s been the senders who have acted first.”
If enough marketers add the code, Baer said, ISPs will begin to recognize and act on it.
Baer overcame a similar challenge in 2006 when he led the charge to get ISPs to include an unsubscribe button in their inbox user interfaces. He expects this effort to pan out similarly.
“There’s a tipping point where I can go to Yahoo! and say: ‘Hey look, you’ve got a bunch of messages in your mailboxes right now that are already clearly marked as no longer relevant. Why don’t you help you users out and do something about it?’” he said. “The reason why as a sender you want to do this is you’ll get fewer spam complaints, better deliverability and make more money.”
For example, Baer said, expiration dates would eliminate possible scenarios such as people opening their inboxes after days of inactivity, seeing a bunch of old emails from one mailer, deciding that mailer is sending too much and lodging a spam complaint.
“No one is going to click ‘this is spam’ on a message that has expired,” he said. “It’s been well documented that people who click ‘this is spam’ often don’t even know why they’re doing it.”
According to Baer, what would happen to expired emails would vary from ISP to ISP.
“Most of the time it would either get deleted or put into an ‘expired’ folder,” he said. “In the case of Gmail, which has some unique features, you could archive it instead of deleting it.”
And while marketers would be able to include an expiration date, they would not be able to dictate what happens when the email expires, said Baer.
“It will never be up to the marketer,” he said. “It will be up to the mailbox provider.”