E-mail can be annoying -- and it's not just spam. In a digital age where your e-mail address is sometimes difficult to keep private, you can be greeted with hate mail from strangers -- or even unpleasant e-mail from people you know.
"Sometimes you get mail from someone who’s really disruptive," said Sri Harsha Somanchi, product manager at Google, in a post on the Official Gmail Blog. "Hopefully it doesn’t happen often but when it does, you should be able to say, 'Never see messages from this person again.'"
Now, you can. At least in theory. Gmail lets you block nasty, troublesome or otherwise unwanted e-mail. Google has rolled out a new feature that lets you block specific e-mail addresses in Gmail. The feature is available right now for Web mail and will roll out over the next week for Android.
Where Does It Go?
That's good news to hundreds of people who get e-mail they don't want that just won't quit, even messages from senders who put you on their lists but don't have unsubscribe buttons at the bottoms of their messages.
When you enable this feature, all future e-mail the blocked person sends you will go to your spam folder. The downside of that approach is that if you get e-mail on your iPhone you will still see it pop up so this isn't an entirely effective solution for those who never want to see a person's e-mail address again.
If you change your mind about the sender, you can always unblock that person -- It's just a matter of going to your settings and flipping a switch (or clicking a button, as it were).
"In addition, the unsubscribe option is now making its way to Android, so you’ll be able to opt out of eligible mailing lists directly from the Gmail app," Somanchi said. " It’s perfect for those newsletters you subscribed to a while back but don’t read any more. So try block or unsubscribe when the situation calls for it. And stay in control of your inbox."
It's unclear when Google will make this available for iPhone users -- and do it without forcing e-mail users to download the Gmail app to get the benefits. In other words, the ultimate solution would be to never see the e-mail, even as spam on your phone, regardless of whether or not you use the app.
How Much Will it Help?
We caught up with Greg Sterling, vice president of strategy and insight at the Local Search Association, to get his take on the new Gmail feature. He told us it could help but it ultimately won't solve the bigger problem digital consumers have with the constant deluge of marketing messages.
"On the one hand this is part of a long-standing effort to de-clutter and rein in e-mail," Sterling said. "However in the larger context of what's going on with ad-targeting opt-outs -- Facebook -- and ad blocking -- Safari -- it's largely an attempt to give users more control over the barrage of marketing messages coming at them."
Also noteworthy is the fact that you can already block users in Gmail. If you go into the settings, you can click an option to "filter messages like these" and even determine where that e-mail goes, from your spam folder to the trash. The bottom line: Google's new tool won't solve all your unwanted e-mail problems but it could save you a few headaches in the end.