Unsubscription: A Simple Way to Ease Overload in Email

Feb 9, 2018
[Work published prior to Yahoo]

The constant growth of machine-generated mail, which today consists of more than 90% of non-spam mail traffic, is a major contributor to information overload in email, where users become overwhelmed with a flood of messages from commercial entities. A large part of this traffic is often junk mail that the user would prefer not to receive. Surprisingly, nearly 95% of this traffic is in fact solicited by the users themselves in the form of subscriptions to mailing services. These subscriptions are many times unintentional. Although unsubscription option from such services is enforced by commercial laws, it is hardly actually used by users.

We perform a large scale study of unsubscribable traffic, namely, messages that provide unsubscription option to users. We consider users behavior over such traffic in Yahoo Web mail service, and demonstrate a significant gap between users low interest in this traffic, and their lack of active behavior in decreasing its load. We conjecture that the cause of this gap is the lack of an efficient and easily accessible mechanism that would help users to unsubscribe. We validate our conjecture with an online large scale experiment, where we provide users with a novel mail feature for managing unsubscribable traffic, based on personalized recommendations. The experiment demonstrates the imminent need that exists for such a mechanism.

  • The 11th ACM International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining Los Angeles, California, USA (WSDM 2018)