Do you ever wish you could have a chance to un-send that embarrassing email? Well, now you can with unSend.it

{ 3 comments }

This post brought to you by Unsend It, LLC. The content and opinions expressed below are that of The Gadgeteer.

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Have you ever pressed the send key and immediately shrieked when you realized that you had “replied all” with your snarky email instead of to just that one person you meant to select?  Or have you ever sent an important email and noticed it was full of typos or noticed you attached a picture of your cute dog Skippy instead of the text document you intended to send?  Sure, you can send another email, but it’s too late at that point because the recipient has seen your snide remarks or poorly typed attempt at passing along needed information.  Wouldn’t it be better if you could just unsend it or fix the original?  That’s a pie-in-the-sky dream, right?  Wrong! 

unSend.it is a service that lets you unsend an email before and even after it’s read by the recipient.  unSend.it works with your existing email address and client (Gmail, Outlook, Apple Mail, and others).  You just create an account at unSend.it, then set up your current email address to use unSend.it as a send-only server.  Your recipients will only see your normal email address, so you don’t have to worry that your communications will end up caught in a spam filter because the address is unrecognized.  With unSend.it, you can unsend or edit sent email at any time, even after it’s been read; you can also unsend or edit sent attachments at any time.  You can have unSend.it automatically notify you when your emails are read, and there’s even a mode to have an email “self-destruct” after it’s read – very important for those “Mission Impossible” games!

The standard (free) service has all the functionality of a premium paid account ($5 / month) except with advertising in the signature line.  You can learn more at the unSend.it site, and you can start the easy sign-up process there, too.

Imagine a world in which you no longer have to explain to Gertrude that you were only joking when you called her mincemeat pie so vile it could kill you!  You were simply trying to tell Hortense that the pie was to die for!  Darn those stupid reply-all buttons…

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Andrew Baker June 26, 2015, 11:12 am

    Although this is a cool idea I can see several problems and/or methods which they would need to do to accomplish this. Since the site really doesn’t go into much detail on how this is accomplished. This coming from my job/position of digital security.

    The first would be to rely on the receiving mail systems recall function. Many mail systems (especially corporate/enterprise, exchange, Lotus Notes, etc) have a recall function. This basically allows the sender of the the message to ask the mail system to remove the entry from the users mail database. In an enterprise system all users will use the same client, and these clients/servers will honor the request. The problem is not all mail systems and clients will honor this. Or in the case of our mail system, it will be honored from the users perspective, however it will still be archived in our system if we need to restore/refer to it for some reason.

    Now I’m only guessing here because they don’t give much detail on this, I however can think of a way this COULD work. Since you are sending the email through their system, I suspect their system takes your email, strips out all the content and stores that content on their servers. It then crafts a new message using HTML/CSS/MAGIC scripts that encapsulates a link to the information on their servers in the message. So you receive a html email that appears to be stored locally, however the content is really being displayed remotely. This way they can control that content each time the message is opened.

    Problem I see with this.
    1. I’m going to start with security, but I do consider this to be less of a problem then you would think. Since all your mail is being hosted on yet ANOTHER server you are putting this information into the hands of another person. However this in itself is not a deal breaker. EMAIL is not secure to start with. The email protocol whats been around since the 70’s is very simple and trusting. It’s not encrypted nor are there any hardcoded safe guards in it to protect anyone from reading your mail as it travels around the net. Yes there are systems that have been developed to help this, but coming down to brass tacks, the system is already so insecure and flawed I can’t see this adding any MORE of a risk.
    2. This would require the intermediary mail system to be available any time you want to read an old message. How long does their system keep these messages? What happens if the company folds. You will no longer be able to review old messages.
    3. Corporate retention policies and backups. Since the contents of this message is not contained in the email, only a link to the content on another system, your IT backups are not going to successfully backup this information. You are only backing up links to the data elsewhere. If that data is removed from the 3rd party server restoring your backups will do nothing. We have a 5 year retention policy on all email. (including spam ACK). We would have to guarantee that the company is around for 5 years.
    4. Offline viewing. Since this email is only a link to a 3rd party server, offline viewing of email is not possible.

    Now I may be off-base on how this works. Since technical information is not available. I’m only making assumptions based on my knowledge on how the email protocols function, and what would be required to pull this off and still conform to the standards necessary to successfully send mail between different systems.

  • eclipse June 26, 2015, 12:50 pm

    Granted this is a sponsored post, so they probably weren’t looking for a disassembly of the technology, but since these services purport to do things which aren’t really “possible”, there you go.

    Other web sites discussing the service indicate that, like similar services, the content of the email is converted to a hosted .jpg image file, with an embedded link. The image, being hosted remotely, can be changed on the server side, but any text in the message, along with the header and message itself, cannot be removed or unsent remotely.

    This means that many systems won’t even display the message, some would block it out of hand, and the image file is going to likely be cached locally.

    So if you insult grandma who’s using IE to access Juno email, you might be able to pull back the message – but she’s probably going to call you anyway and ask what this “broken message” is.

    Anyone with any real technical savvy is simply going to be amused, and if they see you sending emails via a .jpg, they are going to save those images on receipt, if only for snicks.

    Bottom line, you might be able to pull back emails sent internally within a corporate email system, but anything which is sent across the interwebs is forever.

  • DStaal June 26, 2015, 8:17 pm

    As a side note: For the ‘I just clicked send and I need to fix it!’ scenario, apparently GMail has an option they’ve recently brought forward from testing that allows you to fix that – and does it in the one way that works regardless of what the recipient is using, and doesn’t annoy people.

    It simply waits to send the email for some period of time you define before it actually sends it. If, in that delay, you hit ‘undo send’ it cancels *actually* sending it. It won’t work if you wake up the next morning and realize you drunk-emailed your mom, but it will help with the ‘oops, I meant ‘reply’, not ‘reply-all”.

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