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#zerocarbonemail: Delete "auto-magically" outdated emails from your recipients' email boxes?

In many debates related to ecology and email, the question of message storage comes up often. If this is not the only point to consider, it is certainly the one that is most obvious to everyone.

Moreover, some ISPs and webmails are working on reducing email volumes. For example, this is the case of Gmail when the suggests you unsubscribe to some newsletters that you never open.

Some brands have also realized that there is no point in continuing to solicit their inactivesEven though they often think more about deliverability and their performance than about the planet.

Today, it is no longer time to debate how many tons of CO2 could be saved if we did better. No, it's time to DO better !

idea: Set an expiration date for commercial emails

On the storage (and cleaning) of emails, here is a concrete proposal, which we can put in place today.

When an advertiser starts an email campaign, it is generally considered that after 48h to 72h, more than 99% of opens and clicks on the message will have been reached. Moreover, most of the time, the promotion, the message and the products presented will be obsolete after a few days.

The proposal is therefore simple. When sending an email, the sender can define the expiration date of his campaign. Date after which the ISP or webmail will have the right to completely delete this email in order to clean up its servers and the email boxes of its users.

The recipient of the message does not want his emails to disappear by themselves? The webmail could very well offer him the option to activate or not this functionality, to propose the option to keep a specific email even after the date.

The technical proposal (to be discussed)

This date must be stored directly in the email. This allows the information to be transported without the need to create new heavy technologies. Without simplicity, there is a risk that there will be no adoption.

The idea is to have the possibility to store the date at two levels in the email:

In the SMTP header

This is in case the router has integrated this technique in its interface. This could for example take the form of a " X-Expiration-Date: Tue, 23 Mar 2021 10:00:00 +0000

In the HTML code

Adding the expiration date in the HTML is within the reach of almost everyone and does not require the technique to be implemented by the routing platform. This allows senders who wish to do so tomove forward without having to wait for the entire industry to move.

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I am not a big expert on micro-data and Schema.orgbut it seemed to me the most obvious technique to implement our expiration date. And then these are techniques already used for example in Gmail annotationsso many email integrators are already using them.

If I am wrong, please feel free to contribute to the debate and propose a correct solution.

Code to be placed in the HTML header:

<script type="application/ld+json">
  "@context":           "",
  "@type":              "EmailMessage",
  "expires":     	"2011-03-23T10:00:00+00:00",

Or alternatively, the code to be placed in the HTML body:

<div itemscope itemtype="">
	<meta itemprop="expires" content="2011-03-23T10:00:00+00:00" />

It is not impossible that this idea has already been discussed elsewhere. Don't hesitate to tell us, and we'll try to join forces! This is a proposal.

Let's make a mass!

Of course, at the beginning, nobody will indicate this date. Obviously, at the beginning, no ISP or webmail will take this into account. But the advantage of this technique is that from tomorrow, you can add this date to your emails at no extra cost. Starting tomorrow, you can show your commitment. Starting tomorrow, you can encourage your peers, your suppliers, your customers, your contacts to do the same.

In any case, on the side of Badsender, we will contact our customers to check if they adhere and integrate this practice in all the emails that we deliver to our customers or that we send on their behalf. We will also industrialize it in our email builder The Boss.

Contact the different actors of the chain: ISPs, webmails, routers and advertisers

So now, let's get to work. In addition to validating the technical principle (which should not be too complicated), the most important thing is to collect memberships! So don't hesitate to share the information as widely as possible.

What makes this kind of initiative take off is the snowball effect. If you move and say it publicly, then you will move others!

Do not hesitate to send an email to if you want to show your support for the initiative and/or declare that you are getting involved! Please let us know if you agree to make your support public.

Discover the results of the first discussions around the idea !

Photo by Taylor Vick on Unsplash

The author

5 réponses

  1. Very good idea. I am rather of the opinion that by default, i.e. without indication, the messages have a limited life (for example one month which will be appropriate in 99% of the cases). Otherwise it will limit the efficiency.

  2. @fab Thanks for the comment! Indeed, there should be a default duration. I had thought of 45 days, but 30 works too.

    On the other hand, it should be a default duration managed by the advertisers or the routers. Because if there is no expiration date in the email, I think you shouldn't touch it (there are still a lot of emails for which there is a good reason to keep them).

  3. Great idea!
    Not to mention that it can even have a beneficial effect in terms of marketing by giving an emergency value to the email.
    Whether it's for newsletters or for marketing mails I can only see the positive side: the interest of storing old mails is limited (except for personal mails of course but those would obviously not have a prescription date) as much for the reader as for the sender, so automatically deleting obsolete messages to avoid storing them unnecessarily would be perfect.

  4. Very good idea Jonathan!
    Isn't there something to be done on the side of the creators and senders of the e-mails as well? For example, by default after 180 days, the images associated with the email campaign could be deleted from the servers. It's probably not the most space consuming thing, but it seems so easy to implement...

  5. I totally support this idea. Are there any associations, NGOs, collectives ... that support this idea?
    The best thing would be to propose a law on this point!

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