How to unsubscribe from a mailing list in Gmail

If you sign in to Gmail through a browser, Google just switched to a nifty new feature – so nifty, in fact, you’ll wonder why it’s not ubiquitous in email.

When a promotional email graces your inbox – if you have a few in your Trash folder, you can follow it – gaze at the header of the email, just to the right of the designation of the consignor. You are looking for the word “Unsubscribe”. If you can find an email that looks like this, that word is exactly what it sounds like: an easy-to-use one-click link that triggers an automated email to the sender asking them to opt out of other mailings. . No fuss, no fuss.


The idea is to make it easy for yourself to remove unwanted promotion lists yourself, so you can opt out without having to sort through the fine print at an email footer or wallow in proprietary deletion mechanisms ( and sometimes prohibitive) of certain companies. The feature has been around for some time in Gmail, but only for a minority of users. Google has just activated it for everyone.

Be careful, this is not a panacea. It’s not clear, for example, that an automated message from Gmail to a promotional sender will do the trick, as it bypasses the automatic sender deletion process. It’s also unclear how Gmail differentiates between wanted and junk (or promotional and non-promotional) emails. The “unsubscribe” option appeared in some of the promotional emails I read this morning, but not in others.

I wondered if this could be a simple text scrape – a process whereby Google searches for the word “unsubscribe” (linked to a link) somewhere in the email – but I isolated several examples of promotional emails that contain the word but don’t manifest Google’s new “unsubscribe” option which leaks this theory.

It is also not designed to fight spam, say someone is trying to send you your million dollar winnings. These emails will continue to appear in your Spam folder; as always, your best bet is to just zap them (never spam response).

In the future, wouldn’t it be nice if this were intrinsic to all forms of communication? I’m talking about a standard deactivation button that every marketer must adhere to, which is as mandatory as the hang-up button for a voice call, and as ubiquitous as the power button on an electronic device.

Update: Baydin CEO Alex Moore left me a note explaining how Google determines whether to manifest that unsubscribe button in a given email:

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