Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Ariel has started a service called Mailinfo. It looks pretty interesting. It's a plugin for Outlook that lets you see when people have read email that you've sent. Too bad it doesn't work on OSX yet. With all of the spam filters and "gee I wonder if he read my email..." stuff going on, this might be a good tool to unbreak email. Ariel! Hurry up and write a plugin for Mac users. ;-)


Outlook (and at least one other emailer I've seen) already has this feature, and the blocker. The only difference seems to be that this one can tell how many times your mail has been read, and that your notifications are attached to the email itself, rather than contained in a separate email.

Boo. Interesting. Do you know if they use the mail receipt protocol or some other trick? It would be nice if there was a simple way to deal with getting blocked by spam filters. Maybe a how-to or something...

Sorry, I don't know how they do it but I suspect it's the protocol. I guess the tricky part of dealing with getting blocked by spam filters is that spammers can use the same information...hence the totally voluntary aspect of these confirmations.

The power of email really lies in the user's ability to communicate asynchronously. Instant notification that someone has read your email eliminates this aspect (in addition to violating the privacy of your behavior in how you read your inbox). Frankly most people who wonder if their mail was "lost" are simply in denial that the people they emailed refuse to respond. Being able to say "I know they read it, how can they not write me back" is hypocritical. How much email do you read and not respond to (regardless of your intent, sometimes merely because you are too busy to write back right away). Whenever I got an email with one of those "click here to notify that you've read this email" I always click "cancel."

This is even worse than mail receipts, have a look through, seems they use embedded images to track the mail being viewed.

Incredibly rude I'd say, particularly as the way of blocking it they recommend is to download some software from them!

Outlook also has nice features likes turning off "i read this email" notifications and plain-text emails (to eliminate the privacy issues associated with embedded tracking gifs, etc.)

I have seen and tried out a free web-based service just like mailinfo about 2 years ago. Don't remember the name. But it also used embedded gifs. And I didn't like it.

I always found that requesting a 'read-receipt' was the height of e-mail rudeness. I don't mind being told the message made it to the user's server, or to their inbox. Beyond that, what happens to that message when, is none of my business.

I agree with Ed. If someone wants to send me an e-mail, it's my business alone if, when and how often I read it. Starting up a newly installed Mozilla Mail/Thunderbird the first thing for me is to tell it not to send any return receipts.
German mail provider GMX offers a proprietary return receipt solution, too. The recipient gets a system generated mail with some kind of pin code and a URL where she/he can look at the actual e-mail. I for one wouldn't care to read it ...

I agree with Ed as well. Anytime I get a mail with the "read-receipt" I always refuse to send the notification that i have read it. What if I read it but want a few days to think about it? To be placed under some kind of pressure to respond immediatly is just BS. If it is that important, they can call me.

wow, seriously bad stuff. I cant STAND people who use methods like that. Besides, I have inline images switched off by default as it is a well know trick of spammers to check if their stuff is getting trough.

I assume this method is defeated if your mail reader does not load external images automatically. A good feature to have in case you accidentally open a certain kind of spam mail at work :)

i don't this is a new feature because some of the email client already running on this feature.

Yes. There's already a standard way of doing this that is not exclusive to outlook and has been supported by many email application since the eighties; both read receipts and delivery receipts have been specified a number of times and are based on more-or-less standard or even rfc-standard headers (see, for instance, for a list of them). I distinctly remember switching off delivery notifications with sendmail on some of our unix boxen quite early, because we felt that we didn't want to divulge such information to a potentially unknown list of senders. And that was even before the days spammers started collecting and verifying recepient addresses in many ways.

You all think from the position of the one that receives the e-mail with the read receipt "bonus".

What if you'd think as the one that needs to know if and when the e-mail was read or displayed on the recipient's monitor.. And I mean serious, important e-mails to serious, important people about serious, important "stuff".

Well, look at it just a confirmation you (the sender) receive when and that the recipient read it, plain and simple. Whether you want to admit it or not, sometimes it is really important to know that. And no, sometimes you cannot call that someone to hurry him/ her to read/ answer to the e-mail.