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You Can't Change the Past, But You Might Be Able to Unsend that Email

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Some good news in a world that needs it, for the sometimes careless or those who let anger overcome good judgement: Gmail is experimenting with an "unsend" function for email. CNN reports:

Google Inc.'s Gmail Labs has launched an experimental feature called "Undo Send" that gives users a chance to rewrite their message, correct settings or simply fix typos.

When a Gmail user who enables this feature sends an e-mail, a button that says "Undo" will pop up on their screen for five seconds. If the user hits the button within that time, the service will retrieve the e-mail in draft form—allowing the user to make changes or cancel the message altogether…..

Launched in June, Gmail Labs is an optional program. It offers an assortment of tools, ranging from a service that stores e-mails onto a user's desktop so the user can access mail offline to a feature that prevents users from firing away drunken e-mails during late-night hours.

Gmail users can enable the Gmail Labs settings by going to their settings tab. Then they can customize their account by turning on features of their choosing.

Hat tip: Andie Woodman.

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  1. Didn’t Reason mention this last week or so?

  2. In Outlook, you can configure your e-mail with an automatic delay of X minutes. Not a bad idea for people who have sending issues or fearsome recipients.

    I’m sure other apps have this feature as well.

  3. Radley did a one-line mention of it in the daily morning linkorama on Friday, yes. This CNN report I’m quoting from today fleshed it out a bit.

  4. So, this is a big giant wordwall about another popup that says “are you sure you want to . . .”?

  5. Google will impress me when its e-mail client includes built-in AI that asks me whether I’m sure I want to send an e-mail to my CEO that includes the phrase, “That’s so stupid.”

  6. a whole few seconds. well that does not help when you wake up the next morning and after going clubbing you e-mail someone, its then you need an unsend button, lol

  7. Google will impress me when its e-mail client includes built-in AI that asks me whether I’m sure I want to send an e-mail to my CEO that includes the phrase, “That’s so stupid.”

    If you would quit blocking government funding for this sort of research you might have had it by now. Duh.

  8. Indeed. I’m sure DARPA is working on that right now, because God knows sending e-mails to high-level bureaucrats needs such a feature.

  9. Except that, for government work, “undo” should be replaced with “unthink.”

  10. What an amazing innovation! Of course, back when I had Prodigy (look it up) in the early 90’s you were able to unsend any emails to other Prodigy members until they read it. Why not enable this for all gmail users?

    Take something from 20 years ago, slap Google on it, and we’ve got ourselves the future now?

  11. Terrorific,

    It’s a feature in a lot of e-mail clients already, so I don’t think Google is claiming that it’s an innovation. Besides, Prodigy could do that because it took six hours for e-mails to get to recipients ?

    I’m an ex-Prodigy user, too.

  12. It’s a feature in a lot of e-mail clients already, so I don’t think Google is claiming that it’s an innovation. Besides, Prodigy could do that because it took six hours for e-mails to get to recipients

    All e-mail should be run by the Postal Service anyway.

  13. TofuSushi,

    Heh, heh. They sure tried, didn’t they? We’d be hearing talk about e-mails not being delivered on the weekends by now. The e-mails that would’ve cost $0.20 apiece to send.

  14. Or users could just count to 5 before writing anything out of anger. It works well for other activities too.

  15. It works well for other activities too.

    What is wrong with safe words instead of counting?

  16. Isn’t this plan almost exactly like Gmail’s April Fool’s joke a few year back?

  17. Google will impress me when its e-mail client includes built-in AI that asks me whether I’m sure I want to send an e-mail to my CEO that includes the phrase, “That’s so stupid.”

    My email client automatically puts that in for me when I send to my CEO.

  18. What an amazing innovation! Of course, back when I had Prodigy (look it up) in the early 90’s you were able to unsend any emails to other Prodigy members until they read it. Why not enable this for all gmail users?

    Any closed email system can do this. That’s why old email systems worked that way. They were self contained. Your email didn’t “go” anywhere, it merely sat in a database somewhere that all users had access to. You merely read the emails that were flagged as being to you. The problem is the world don’t work that way anymore.

  19. Any closed email system can do this. That’s why old email systems worked that way. They were self contained. Your email didn’t “go” anywhere, it merely sat in a database somewhere that all users had access to. You merely read the emails that were flagged as being to you. The problem is the world don’t work that way anymore.

    Not until all servers are owned by Google. Then it’ll work exactly like that gain.

  20. So, when is Hit’n’Run going to add a retroactive edit function? Every time I have to make a little self effacing comment to correct a grotesque syntactical error (I let my minor ones slide) is one less post I can dedicate to railing against the regime.

  21. alan,

    “one less post” should have read “one more post.”

    … just kiddin 😉

  22. Other than the blink tag, what I’d like to see most here isn’t the ability to edit my own posts. Rather, I’d like the ability to edit everyone else’s posts.

  23. Doesn’t Outlook have this feature? I’m not an Outlook user (and never will be), but I recall a coworker who would frequently try to “recall” his email. But since I had already read the mail in a non-Outlook client, he couldn’t do it. Pissed him off.

  24. It’s not an unsend, it’s a cancel send. MS users have a recall feature if your recipient has exchange. This is basically a less intrusive “are you sure” button.

    This is like Apple touting cut and paste on the iPhone. “Wow, I can do something every other smartphone user could do for 5 year! Thanks Steve!”

  25. Yes, Outlook has had this feature forever, you can recall any e-mail that has not been opened by a recipient.

  26. Yes, Outlook has had this feature forever, you can recall any e-mail that has not been opened by a recipient.

    No you cannot. Once your email leaves the server, it’s done. There may be a feature (as explained above) if you’re using Outlook in an Exchange environment, and I’ll bet dollars to donuts that it’s only to other exchange recipients within the domain. Once your email bits fly out of the SMPT server across dem innernets, there are no– repeat NO takebacks.

  27. Next: Smith & Wesson unveils revolutionary “unshoot” button for handguns!

  28. It’s like one of the features of AOL email service, but can you still unsend the e-mail even if the recipient already opened the e-mail you sent? Because that is not possible to my AOL account.

  29. Telling people I work with that there is no way to retrieve poorly thought out e-mails that they have sent is one of the most amusing parts of being an IT guy.

    That look they get is just so priceless.

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